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To help solve slums, innovators build jobs, food security into affordable housing blueprints

Proposed urban edition of Malaysia's 'smart' eco-villages debuts

Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

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IMAGE: Malaysian innovators have created blueprints for an urban community counterpart with affordable homes and sustainable jobs, their aim to solve squalid slums. view more

Credit: GSIAC/IRIS

Building on the poverty relief success achieved through self-sustaining high-tech "smart villages," Malaysian innovators have created blueprints for an urban counterpart that combines affordable homes, food security and sustainable jobs, aiming to solve the growing global problem of squalid city slums.

Like the 50-acre smart village sites, the 5-acre urban version provides affordable accommodation with educational and community facilities and incorporates innovative employment opportunities and food security through aquaculture and state-of-the-art water-efficient greenhouse-based agriculture.

The city neighbourhood model features a pre-fabricated, four-story walk-up apartment building created largely from post-consumer materials.

The first such building, with 32 apartments, was recently assembled in 16 weeks for US$ 1.5 million - including land costs - by Malaysia's IRIS Corporation in Pahang, Malaysia's 3rd largest state. (Video: http://bit.ly/1vt4qQ3).

Five such buildings envisioned on a five-acre site would lift 160 families from extreme poverty into higher income and living standards and a far healthier environment.

  • The blueprint includes 100 fish tanks (each holding 5,000 litres of water), five greenhouses and gardens on the building rooftops.
  • A shopping and commercial centre with a budget hotel, a police base, day care, learning and recreational centres complete the facilities.
  • Total estimated development cost: USD 12 million, including the urban land acquisition.
  • An estimated 33% of the developing world's urban population lives in informal settlements.
  • International expressions of interest in the model have already been received from Africa.

The blueprints were presented at the 4th meeting of Malaysia's Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (www.gsiac.org), convened at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) in Manhattan.

Chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, GSIAC is a body of distinguished national and international leaders in economics, business, science and technology guiding Malaysia's sustainable development towards a goal of $20,000 per capita annual income by 2020. GSIAC is run jointly by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology and NYAS.

Innovator Tan Say Jim of the IRIS Corporation underscores that constructing affordable housing for the poor without an integrated, complementary way to provide employment and to support community development often leaves those in poverty little better off, perhaps worse.

Already, Malaysia's "smart villages" have lifted incomes for several hundred rural families while promoting environmental sustainability.

Three are now completed, four in progress and 15 planned for next two years in Malaysia. The model is also being adopted in Africa.

Each smart village consists of about 100 affordable, energy-efficient, pre-fabricated homes, high-tech connected educational, training and recreational facilities, with an integrated, sustainable farm system providing villagers with food and employment -- on average tripling income to about US $500 per month.

Thirteen of the villages are in areas settled under Malaysia's Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) -- an agency founded in 1956 to help alleviate poverty and open new settlements with smallholder farms. FELDA's "Sentuhan Kasih" communities will help accommodate descendants of the original homesteaders and reduce urban migration.

The village home is 1,000 square-feet in size built largely from post-consumer materials, each constructed in just 10 days at a cost of under $30,000 (video: http://bit.ly/1lYejDu).

The innovative farming operations include a cascading series of fish tanks. Aquafarmed at the top of the water ladder are fish species sensitive to water quality, next tilapia, then guppies and finally algae, the latter two used to feed the larger fish.

Filtered fish tank wastewater then irrigates trees, grain fields, and high-value plants grown in "Autopots" - a three piece container featuring a smart valve that detects soil moisture levels and releases water precisely as required, reducing the need for fertilizer and pesticides. Worms from plants compost are fed to free-range chickens.

This system optimizes nutrient absorption, minimizes waste and enables crops to be grown in previously non-arable land. Premium produce sold at market include Golden Melon, Butterhead Lettuce, Misai Kuching (herbal tea), Jade Perch fish and the free-range chickens.

A community hall, resource centre, places of worship, playgrounds and educational facilities equipped with 4G Internet service support both e-learning and e-health services.

Fewer than one in 20 families invited to live and work in a rural "smart village" decline the opportunity.

A Complete "Smart City," Iskandar Malaysia Selected for UN Energy Initiative

The Iskandar megalopolis under construction at the southern tip of Malaysia, meanwhile, has been selected by the United Nations' Sustainable Energy for All initiative as one of the world's 10 cities and regions to take part in its model "global energy efficiency accelerator platform."

Iskandar is a highly planned, ultra-green development of skyscrapers as well as low-carbon, self-contained townships, villages and neighbourhoods to cover an area three times the size of Singapore - a centrepiece of Malaysia's sustainable development strategy.

Incorporating sustainability at the ground level, Iskandar is designed as an environmentally-friendly, socially inclusive haven for people to live, work and play. Officials project Iskandar's population at 3 million by 2025 with a green economy GDP of US$93 billion.

Meanwhile, Melaka recently joined Malaysia's national smart city programme, which originated with a strategic paper presented at the inaugural meeting of the GSIAC in 2010. The program is run by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology.

Melaka, the nation's historic trading crossroad state, is using private / public partnership investments to institute a state-of-the-art smart urban energy grid a Green Special Economic Zone with a goal of building research and development centres, creating thousands of highly-skilled green jobs in renewable energy and clean technology.

Says Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Joint Chairman of the Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), and a member of the UN Secretary-General's Scientific Advisory Board: "Achieving sustainable development requires the sort of imaginative innovation being pioneered through the smart communities program in Malaysia. With enterprising public and private sector partners and the counsel of GSIAC experts, Malaysia is in the forefront of effort to create a sustainable future."

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Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee under the purview of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. MIGHT is an organization built on the strength of public-private partnership with more than 100 members, both local and international, from industry, government and academia. As an organization MIGHT is dedicated to providing a platform for industry-government consensus building in the drive to advance high technology competency in Malaysia.

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