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The factory in the forest which connects workers to nature

Paramit Malaysia Sdn Bhd (Malaysia) won the Leadership in Design, Commercial Award (2020 Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards) for their multi-award-winning electronics factory in Penang Science Park, Malaysia. In this blog, Gregers Reimann, Managing director, IEN Consultants Sdn Bhd and Billoo Rataul, CEO, Paramit, walk us through this unique project.

What was the aim of this project?

Sustainability was an integral part of the design process for this factory. Our cardinal design principles were energy and water efficiency, daylighting and biophilia — which is the fundamental human need for a connection to nature.

This has resulted in measured energy saving reductions of 40%, and an anonymous post occupancy survey reported 90% of the staff working onsite prefer the new factory design over the old.

The factory is a marriage of stunning architecture and innovative environmental engineering, which has created a truly high performing building. Watch the three minute building design video of the factory.

Challenges and opportunities?

The main challenge was ensuring that we continuously monitored the workmanship during construction. Opportunities? The amazingly positive response we’ve received from the building occupants and public alike, which we hope will influence the building industry.

In what ways does this project contribute to our industry’s long-term goals towards total decarbonisation?

As well as achieving 40% energy savings, the new factory design is improving the environmental indoor quality of the work spaces. So in this way, the building is contributing to the health of both the people and the planet. The use of an innovative energy-efficient floor slab cooling system has also spurred much interest.

In a less direct but equally crucial way, we are using the factory to contribute to decarbonisation through awareness. We want to share the Paramit story through the media to show the industry what we’ve achieved and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same.

From the onset of the Paramit factory project, you had a clear vision creating a high performing building. After an early set-back, and with the benefit of hindsight, how would you approach this building project differently if you could dial back the clock?

There are many things that we learnt as you might imagine! Importantly, I would start with the Climate Engineering specifications first, then shortlist architects with knowledge and a successful track record of these projects and, finally, run paid competitions to extract the best ideas.

You wanted a high performance building without pursuing formal green building certification? What is your definition of a high performance building?

Our objective was not to get a Green Building Certification but to create a highly energy efficient factory. We targeted and achieved a 100% gain in energy efficiency per square meter. The Green Building objectives would naturally be met if we achieved our goals.

To me, a high performance building is also one with a conducive and healthy indoor environment, such has sufficient fresh air rates, daylit spaces and views to nature. I wanted a building that is stimulating to work in — as well as having a high environmental performance.

Why create a forest and immerse the factory in it?

When I first visited the building site in the soulless and sparsely vegetated industrial park, I wanted to bring back the forest. The lush forest that greets visitors to Paramit comes as such a contrast to the rest of the industrial park. I recall that one of the taxi driver’s, when pulling into Paramit, exclaimed: “Wow, is this a resort?!” Such positive reactions are very rewarding. Human habitation need not displace the natural environment, it can function within it. The climate engineering objectives aside, forests have a beneficial impact on our health, both physically and mentally.

You admirably want to spread the word and inspire the rest of the industrial sector to follow Paramit’s example in terms of creating energy efficient and high performing industrial buildings. How is that going? 

I think we have drawn a lot of attention from the local business/industrial community – they sought out our architectural team and a few new buildings have come up that are using some of the concepts that we implemented. The building clearly has an aesthetic appeal, but for the business community we need to better advertise the Return on Investment (ROI). View reactions to the factory here and the book here.

How do you see the future for environmentally responsible industrial buildings?

Unfortunately, I am not optimistic. Business leadership can tend to seek out old and tried ways of doing things because it seeks certainty. There needs to be a demonstrated financial benefit and a clear path to achieving it, as well as more architects and building engineers who are confidently pushing these concepts to show a clear ROI.


About the awards

The Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards showcase the achievements of businesses and innovators in WorldGBC’s Asia Pacific Network which are leading the way on sustainability in buildings.

The biennial Awards, first held in 2014, celebrates buildings pushing the envelope in sustainability, companies that have integrated sustainability into the core of their operations, and women leading the green building space.

An independent panel of 12 high-profile judges assessed nominations from Asia Pacific green building councils, and selected finalists in three awards categories:

1. The Business Leadership in Sustainability Award

2. The Women in Green Building Leadership Award

3. The Leadership in Sustainable Design and Performance Award

View the full Award Booklet: Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards 2020 here.

The winner of each category was announced at an online ceremony on the 3rd December 2020.

For more information contact, Nellie Cheng at