Through the eyes of MDA judges
Arbiters comment on the awards, the entries and the property industry
By YANIKA LIEW
AN exceptional panel of judges comprising industry players from various disciplines and backgrounds scrutinised entries of the first-ever Malaysia Developer Awards (MDA), an event organised by the International Real Estate Federation’s Malaysian chapter (FIABCI-Malaysia) and Star Media Group (SMG).
Sixteen judges, meticulously chosen for their expertise, hand their hands full vetting entries for five categories. Under the Special Awards, the categories covered Rising Star, Transformation, and International. The Top-of-the-Chart Awards were divided into the Top 10 for market capitalisation of RM1bil and above, and Top 10 for market capitalisation below RM1bil.
Designed for thorough qualitative and quantitative checks, each category had its own criteria to allow for fine-tuning of the judging process, while providing equitable and holistic benchmarking.
The head judges were specially invited to lead the panel to ensure that the integrity and transparency of the MDA were upheld:
The panel of judges also included:
Reputable and transparent
Like MBSB Bank’s Azlan, the judges were impressed by the undertakings of FIABCI-Malaysia and SMG to introduce a holistic award that is not just reputable but transparent in its creation.
“This will help to elevate the property industry,” he said during the judging session held at Sunway Resort Hotel on Aug 10.
IEM’s Chuah said: “As the criteria are very high and some aspects are quantifiable — with others involving quality, environment and sustainability — the awards are meaningful to the really good development projects. It gives all stakeholders an assurance of quality.”
As one of the chief judges, he noted that with the recognition from their peers and other stakeholders, award recipients would be proud of their achievements and strive to improve themselves.
“This is a very prestigious award, and I think it’s a good time to hold the event after Covid now that everyone is back in business,” said Ngo during teatime break of the Special Awards judging on Aug 10.
Regarding Malaysia’s recovering economic period, she pointed to the timeliness of the MDA in recognising the efforts by developers over the years. Her research background provided extensive knowledge on interpreting the financials of a company, as well as keeping track of the trends within the sector, such as green buildings and environmental, social and governance (ESG).
“It’s basically recognising and imputing [from] a different angle, in how we evaluate developers… if you look at it, we are doing a lot on Rising Stars, Transformations and Internationals and we put in different criteria when we evaluate the projects,” Ngo said.
“It’s very well organised and structured… the criteria process, how SMG, working with KPMG, has come up with very stringent requirements,” Chan agreed.
The MIEA president noted that the quantitative side of the assessments was well-audited from publicly available figures and crystallised into a matrix for weightage and scoring, while allowing the qualitative side to shine, with a panel of industry players giving different views and insights into the judging process.
“Estate agents are very involved in the sales and marketing part with developers. Because of that we are familiar with developer sales projects as well as their branding exercises,” she said.
Chan’s expertise in sales and marketing provided the expertise in evaluating a company’s brand, whether they were performing well or if their products were sellable. The different criteria, whether profitability or ESG, helped developers set a benchmark for those running the same race.
“When the industry is so open and you do your own thing, sometimes you don’t know whether you’re better than the average or you’re lagging behind. So these kinds of benchmarks help you to push yourself and set goals,” she added.
For MY2H’s Liew, the MDA will set a new standard through the lens of foreign investment. With the guidance of FIABCI-Malaysia’s aptitude and international leadership, award-winning developers will be able to challenge themselves at a global level.
“When they see our development, they feel that Malaysian properties have unique facades, facilities and services. Whenever they want to select a suitable property, they will likely refer to the award-winners to confirm their choices with confidence,” said Liew.
“FIABCI has linkages throughout the world, so it brings up our developers,” said Irhamy. “Some of our developers have ventured overseas, so that’s a plus. I think more of our developers should be taking the Malaysian brand overseas.”
He pointed to Sunway Properties and Gamuda Land as successful examples that have managed to infiltrate overseas markets.
New age of design
As a veteran in the property industry, Irhamy noted that Malaysia’s tropical climate presented unique challenges when it came to architecture, design and construction. With the new age of architects in Malaysia, new designs will pop up.
“Cold countries tend to preserve heat. Over here, the architect’s greatest challenge is to dissipate heat. We feel the place getting warmer because of climate change. Some architects are now thinking of air circulation, thinking of making the place cooler with their designs,” said Irhamy.
“Houses of the past were not that practical because we had bigger families. Now we have smaller families,” he added, pointing to the change in Malaysian living spaces and practices, which would also change our buildings.
Tong said: “I encourage developers to continue to strive for the best, and to learn from one another in a friendly, competitive environment with the ultimate goal of fulfilling our nation-building role in housing the rakyat in quality, affordable homes.”
The Rehda president said that with the diverse lineup of judges, each of them gained valuable insights from the comments and questions raised.
Wei Sum noted that the integrity in the judging process was assured because the judges were professionals from different industries — such as Azlan, Wahid, Noraini, Chuah and Tong — and judges with expertise in different aspects like product ideas, project sustainability, innovation and ESG initiatives.
“The MDA intends to recognise and reward developers who have a good track record, are creative and innovative, who prioritise the project’s safety and interests of stakeholders as well as their ESG initiatives. The MDA will be able to provide confidence and information to home-seekers before they acquire their properties,” she said.
Kong said: “This one-of-a-kind award gives special recognition to developers for their innovation, creativity and courage in doing something different. We are selecting the cream of the crop, best of the best, so we will propel the other developers trying to do the same, and elevate the standards of the industry.”
“That will also help the public to see and to select,” said PAM’s Ezumi, who has extensive experience as a judge in property awards, design awards, and especially building-related architecture awards.
His expertise is drawn from evaluating not just the developer in terms of financial capability and practice but also the value of the project in terms of design, contribution to the environment and the built environment for the benefit of the people and the industry.
“So the public knows that the award-winner has done the right thing for the industry and the nation. In the end, what we want to see is the industry serving better products, better quality housing and real estate, and at the same time doing good things for the environment,” said Ezumi.
With high expectations for the entries as well as the MDA itself, RISM’s Khaidzir noted that awards such as the MDA must be relevant to the current priorities of the industry, for example ESG initiatives or affordability. And there should be more emphasis on such priorities.
“You have to move with the times,” he added.