Green Building Index (GBI)

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Green Building Index (GBI) – An introductory guide

The Green Building Movement

Green building index

Picture courtesy of KL Office Spaces

Does this scene look familiar to you? If it is, chances are you probably live or work within the area. Or, you might have passed by this place or its surrounding areas numerous times while you were headed for somewhere else. For the unfamiliar, the shot is taken from Damansara Perdana, specifically closer to the PJ Trade Center and Menara Mustapha Kamal side.

More notably, the area is known for its green environment. Compared to the rest of PJ’s commercial areas, this little nook in Damansara Perdana feels a little more outdoorsy and cozier. This is all thanks to its next-door neighbor – Bukit Kiara, a dense forest separating a majority of Damansara areas and Mont Kiara that towers over the area. Apart from that, it is also due to the number of biomorphic architectures, or nature-inspired buildings neatly scattered across the place.

These days, biomorphic architectures are a common sight in Klang Valley. While most conventional buildings look and feel industrial, biomorphic architectures are structures that mimic the shapes of nature instead. Additionally, they are commonly adorned with flora in its surroundings.

In fact, some buildings have even taken it up a notch and incorporated plants into the building themselves, giving it a unique architectural element. Like how these thin layered shrubs or faint overgrowth that are poking through the walls of PJ Trade Center. Here’s what we mean.


The other side of PJ Trade Center x Menara Mustapha Kamal overlooking the Penchala Link. Picture courtesy of Google Maps.

That being said, biomorphic architecture is not to be confused with a green building. A green building, despite what its name suggests, is more than just a structure with plants. In fact, the World Green Building Council (WGBC) defines a green building through the following set of criteria:

  • Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
  • Use of renewable energy, i.e. solar energy
  • Pollution and waste reduction materials and the enabling of re-use and recycling
  • Good indoor environmental air quality
  • Use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable
  • Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
  • Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
  • A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment

On top of that, all green buildings in Malaysia must undergo a strict certification process before being accredited as one. In a nutshell, all biomorphic architectures aren’t green buildings, but all green buildings can be biomorphic architectures.

Green building is a concept that has been afloat in the country for years, and a handful of organizations or business groups have embraced the culture in the past decade or so. That being said, the common crowd only started paying attention to it 5 years ago, and it is all thanks to a particular treaty.


Green Buildings: Why is it a thing?


Green buildings are fundamentally important for two reasons – One, it is one of Malaysia’s ways of honoring the Paris Agreement. Two, it ensures businesses play their respective roles in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The Paris Agreement

First, to understand the rise in green building numbers in Malaysia, one must first learn about the international treaty responsible for the phenomenon – The Paris Agreement. Back on 12 December 2015, the United Nations Framework Conventionon Climate Change (UNFCCC) pushed the Paris Agreement to the world, with an intention to curb the issue of global warming. 

To achieve this, the UNFCCC proposed that all countries involved should collectively aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that Earth is climate neutral by 2050. The treaty was met with resounding support from the world and subsequently saw signing from 195 countries. This included Malaysia, who pledged its loyalty to the cause and was formally included in the treaty as of 16 December 2016.

paris agreement

Paris Agreement circa. 2016. Photo courtesy of NRDC

Following its inclusion in the treaty, Malaysia began doubling down on its efforts to go green. Going green is a large umbrella term that houses a multitude of actions. Essentially, anything that contributes to the wellbeing of the environment is considered a green effort, think 3R (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle), Zero Waste, Sustainable Living and Digitalization to name a few. However, these are mostly individual changes. What about going green on a larger scale then?

On a larger scale, the Malaysian government proposed a series of sustainable developments for the country instead, with a focus on these four core areas – Green Buildings, Green Energy, Green Transportation and Waste Management.

Other green efforts unlisted within the country’s sustainable developments also include Green Learning/Green Education Model, Green Villages and Sustainable Financing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility is defined as the act of integrating Environmental, Social, and (Corporate) Governance (ESG) concerns into businesses. As the world begins to place a bigger emphasis on environmental wellbeing, so too does CSR see a heavier weightage for corporations and businesses alike.

Fulfilling one’s CSR is important because it shows that corporations and businesses aren’t blindly pursuing profit at the expense of environmental and social impacts. This also ensures that they will continue to operate in an ethical and sustainable manner that is in line with the treaty’s vision.

With Malaysia putting its sustainable developments to plan, this has likewise caused many parties to rethink their business motives, i.e.: the construction industry and green buildings.

Sustainable Financing

We’re dedicating a brief section to Sustainable Financing because it relates closely to sustainable development, CSR and ESG. Although sustainable financing is a relatively infant concept in Malaysia, and thus isn’t as widely practiced, it is the financial backbone of many sustainable developments worldwide. 

Sustainable developments enable banks or investors to finance them with lesser costs, by offering attractive financing options such as low interest rates or tax incentives. Additionally, they give banks a reason to incorporate the Equator Principles and Wolfsberg Principles into banking business practices. 

Currently, MIDA is the only financial body in the country to offer sustainable financing to sustainable developments via Green Investment Tax Exemption, though we expect that to change as banks and other financial institutions start picking up on the practice in the future.


The birth of Green Building Index

GBI logo

Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd

In Malaysia, the accreditation of all green buildings falls under the purview of Green Building Sdn Bhd (stylized as Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd), though its roots can be traced way back to 2008, starting with Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia (PAM), or the Malaysian Institute of Architect.

That year, in light of the rising demands for green buildings in Malaysia, PAM began to realize the need for a rating tool to assist the government in better recognizing these buildings.

That led PAM to establish the Sustainability Committee, which in turn, developed the Green Building Index (GBI), a rating tool to assess and certify green buildings on that front. Following that, the committee also formed a professional panel to both design and oversee the accreditation process.

Finally, to seal the deal, PAM founded Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd in a joint effort with the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM) in 2009, with Ar. Serina Hajjis serving as its chairman.

The goal of Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd was to cultivate a team of facilitators and certifiers capable of administering the GBI in a competent manner, thereby relieving its professional panel of any groundwork and allowing them to focus on managing the organization instead.  

Since its inception 12 years ago, it is estimated that the organization has grown by 1000 members, comprising 966 facilitators with ¼ of them actively providing professional consulting services to sustainable developments.


Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd: The hierarchy

The hierarchy in Green Building Index Sdn Bhd is broken down into three levels, namely,

  • GBI Accreditation Panel (GBIAP)
  • GBI Certifiers
  • GBI Facilitators

Here’s a picture to better illustrate the hierarchy.

Green Building Index (GBI) 1

Picture courtesy of Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd


Sitting on the uppermost level is the GBIAP, a group of key members tasked with managing and representing the organization, and accrediting the relevant parties. Most importantly, they are responsible for charting the organization’s direction and strategy.

GBI Certifiers

Next, the GBI Certifiers. GBI Certifiers are experienced professionals responsible for administering the assessment and certification of green buildings. Essentially, they will determine the green rating or the score that is awarded based on the GBI guidelines to a green building after meeting a set of requirements or conditions.

GBI Facilitators

Finally, on the front and foremost lines lay the GBI Facilitators. GBI Facilitators are professional consultants who work in tandem with clients to help them meet or attain a desired green rating. This is accomplished through advisory services or collaborating with clients to design a plan that will enable them to better meet their goals.


The GBI Assessment Process

When it comes to getting certified and accredited as a green building in Malaysia, it will take more than just a garden, potted plants, a few rows of trees or a biomorphic building to make the cut.

As a matter of fact, corporations or businesses looking to have their buildings accredited will have an extremely specific and strict list of criteria to meet before they are awarded the title of a Green Building.

For starters, the Green Building Index assesses buildings on the 6 following aspects:

  • Energy Efficiency (EE)
  • Indoor Environment Quality (EQ)
  • Materials and Resources (MR)
  • Sustainable Site Planning & Management (SM)
  • Water Efficiency (WE)
  • Innovation (IN)

Energy Efficiency (EE)

Reducing the building’s energy consumption through building orientation, or placement. Standard practices of EE include harvesting natural lighting, utilizing renewable energy, minimizing the gain of solar heat to name a few.

Indoor Environment Quality (EQ)

Achieving an adequate indoor air quality, whilst maintaining visual, thermal and acoustic comfort (this means no visual, thermal or air pollution). Practices of EQ include quality air filtration, organic compound materials and proper control of air humidity and temperature.

Materials and Resources (MR)

Using environmental-friendly resources sourced from recycling or sustainable centers. It also includes proper implementation of the waste management system, storage and the re-use of recyclable material, including construction waste.

Sustainable site Planning & Management (SM)

Establishing buildings in an area that enables its occupants to access public transportations, ability to carry out community services, wide-open spaces and landscaping. SM also dictates that developers should avoid building on environmentally sensitive sites and opt for brownfields (the reuse of chemically hazardous abandoned lands i.e.: abandoned gas stations, commercial and industrial properties). Lastly, SM also looks into the proper design of construction and stormwater (rainwater) management to reduce strain on infrastructure capacity.

Water Efficiency (WE)

Harvesting rainwater for building’s use. Water recycling including water treatment and its reuse for environmentally beneficial purposes, i.e.: irrigation and industrial processes. This section also involves the use of water-efficiency fittings or the use of taps that restrict water flow to 1/3 of the consumption provided by regular taps.

Innovation (IN)

Assessing the building’s ability to meet the criteria above through innovative building designs, think piping works, design of stormwater management, adequate manage of air flow to name a few.

GBI Rating/Green Rating

Once a building has been assessed based on the factors above, it will be scored on a 100-pointer system. Here’s a quick table showing the score range and GBI rating.

wdt_ID Score Range GBI Rating/Green Rating
1 86 – 100 Platinum
2 76 – 85 Gold
3 66 – 75 Silver
4 50 - 65 Certified

Applying for the Green Building status 

The application process to get a building certified is broken down into 3 stages.

  1. Application & Registration
  2. Design Assessment (DA)
  3. Completion & Verification Assessment (CVA)

Application & Registration

The application process begins with the applicants submitting their contact details, project information and supporting Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd. Next, the applicants will be charged a certain fee based on the size of their project. Once applicants are successfully registered, they will be assigned a registration number and required to sign a contract stating the terms and conditions between both parties. When the signing is concluded, a GBI Certifier will be assigned to the applicant.


Stage 1 of the GBI Application Process. Picture courtesy of Greenbuidingindex Sdn Bhd

Design Assessment (DA)

The DA phase takes place when the applicant is ready to submit the project (the building plans) for the GBI Certifier’s review. A presentation, prior to the commencement of the building’s construction, will then follow suit, given either by the applicant or GBI Facilitator. After that, the GBI Certifier will award a score to the presenting parties based on the score range listed earlier and compile the report for the panel’s review. The final step of DA ends with the panel greenlighting the certification if the presentation is satisfactory.

It is also important to note that certification and accreditation are two different processes. GBI Certifiers are only authorized to certify that the respective applicant’s building has successfully passed the assessment and is entitled to the Green Building title. However, only the panel is capable of awarding the title.

Design assessment

Stage 2 of the GBI Application Process. Picture courtesy of Greenbuidingindex Sdn Bhd

Completion and Verification Assessment (CVA)

For the final stage, applicants will be requested to submit the Completion and Verification Assessment within 12 months after the building is completed, or when the building is 50% occupied (whichever comes first). Once the CVA is submitted, the panel will present the applicant the award and title of a Green Building based on its green rating. And last but not least, the title of a Green Building is valid for 3 years upon the conferment of the title. Parties wishing to retain their title and GBI rating will have to be reassessed on a tri-yearly basis. This can be achieved by ensuring that their building(s) is well maintained.

completion & verification

Stage 3 of the GBI Application Process. Picture courtesy of Greenbuidingindex Sdn Bhd


Green Building Index: The miscellaneous

GBI Registration Fees

GBI’s registration fees range from RM5000 – RM135000, depending on the magnitude of the applicant’s project or development. Information on pricing for specific projects can be found here.

GBI Rating Tools

Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd has a large list of GBI tools catered to assessing specific building types i.e.: commercial vs. non-commercial vs. townships. The tools are constantly updated, which means applicants should keep a lookout for the latest version of GBI rating tools.

GBI Facilitators

Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd constantly renews its GBI Facilitators contact list; if clients or applicants are hoping to consult a GBI Facilitator in ways they can improve their green rating, they may refer to the contact list here.

GBI Training Courses

Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd offers 3 courses to educate the public and interested parties on the green buildings and the organization.

General Education involves the organization’s participation in conferences, conventions and information sessions to promote the awareness of sustainable development to the public and community.

The GBI Facilitator Course is a 3-day course that provides training to participants interested in becoming professional GBI Facilitators. Upon completing the course, participants may undertake some course exercises and an exam to be accredited as a GBI Facilitator.

The GBI Certifier Course is offered to accredited GBI Facilitators wishing to take their career a step further. Like the GBI Facilitator Course, participants will be subjected to some course exercises and exams before being accredited as one.

Further information can be found here.


Certified green buildings in Malaysia


Tun Razak Exchange (TRX)

As of 2021, Malaysia boasts an impressive list of buildings registered under Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd that includes (but are not limited to):

  • Heriot-Watt Putrajaya University
  • Menara Chuan Koo
  • Sky Suites @ KLCC
  • Menara Hong Leong
  • Tun Razak Exchange (TRX)

Further information on certified green buildings can be found here.


Green Buildings: Do they really work?

Green Building Index (GBI) 2

This will be a short section discussing the efficacies of green buildings and the impact they pose worldwide.

It’s always easy to say that green buildings are beneficial to the environment. The very core idea of going green is to ensure that we protect mother nature and the environment, which in turn benefits us.  

That being said, developing a green building anywhere is often a lengthy process that can be extremely tedious and exhausting to meet, as we’ve learned so from green buildings in Malaysia. And while it does yield positive results to the environment, the bigger question that begs to be answered here is how impactful they can be, with values if possible. Here’s a brief summation of the findings we’ve obtained from the internet.

According to a finding by WGBC, green buildings in India have helped the country increase energy and water savings by 40-50% and 20-30%, respectively. Meanwhile, a research conducted in the US by National Geographic in 2017 showed that green buildings had reduced carbon dioxide emissions in US cities by 34%, with buildings seeing a 17% increase in occupancy rates and 20% decrease in maintenance costs nationwide. Lastly, in China, green buildings saw a 30% increase in sales and 17.5% increase in rentals back in 2016, where the Chinese government dictated that the practice of efficient energy is mandatory in the country.

Put simply, the benefits of green buildings does speak for itself and the list is endless. We could go on about our findings but we believe the 3 findings above have said enough. The process of being a certified green building may be long and arduous, but its long-term benefits to the world, and more importantly to our future cannot be overstated.


Closing Note

Green Building Index (GBI) 3

Green buildings are a must in today’s ever-changing landscape and environment. While they are yet to be made mandatory globally, many countries seem to be steering the need for green buildings in that direction. Be it for the sake of the Paris Agreement or corporate social responsibility, the world, the community, and society are calling for a change, and they want it now.



Green Building Index (GBI) 4

Although the notion of green buildings has been around in Malaysia for the past decade or so, it has recently only gained prominence within the society, courtesy of the Paris Agreement and corporate social responsibility that various corporations are trying to fulfil. Malaysia’s green building journey may have had a slow start, but it is here to stay, and it’s only a matter of time before green buildings are made the norm in our surroundings. This is but the beginning for the country.



What are green buildings?

In simple terms, a green building, defined by the WGBC, is a building that reduces its negative impacts to the environment through design, construction or operation. At the same time, it also contributes positively to the wellbeing of the environment.

Who handles the accreditation of green buildings in Malaysia?

The accreditation of green buildings in Malaysia falls under the purview of Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd.

How are green buildings rated in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, green buildings are rated based on the Green Building Index (GBI).

What is the accreditation process like for green buildings in Malaysia?

Applicants wishing to have their buildings accredited will be subjected to the following stages – Registration & Application, Design Assessment (DA) and Completion & Verification Assessment (VCA).

I am interested in attending courses relating to green buildings, where do I go?

Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd offers three distinctive courses for parties wishing to learn more about green buildings in Malaysia. Information on these courses can be obtained here


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