This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on August 22, 2022 - August 28, 2022
Sunway Montana in Desa Melawati, a freehold hillside enclave tucked away in one of the last remaining green lungs of KL city, is a place where residents can relax and unwind amid a natural setting.
Sunway Group’s asset management firm, Sunway Property & Facility Management Sdn Bhd (Sunway PFM), strives to create a sustainable community on undulating terrain with minimal environmental impact that focuses on wellness, where community members live in harmony with each other as well as the natural surroundings.
The development, which was completed in 2015, has been awarded Bronze in the Below 10 years multiple-owned Strata Residential Category.
Strategically located just 10km from the KL city centre, Sunway Montana is spread across 56.4 acres and comprises 315 units of villas, semidees and townhouses, with just five units built on each acre.
According to Sunway PFM, as the houses are built on elevated terrain, moderate winds will blow away and disperse pollutants, thus ensuring good air quality.
Residents have easy access to the development’s Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified clubhouse. Designed to reduce energy costs by 40% and water use by 48% annually, the 19,000 sq ft clubhouse features an overhang structure for shade and natural ventilation, sunshade louvres, photovoltaic panels, rainwater harvesting, and an open layout that promotes natural light and ventilation. Facilities include a swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, karaoke room, gourmet kitchen, library and viewing deck.
Sunway Montana has 60% of green spaces dedicated to linear parks, community gardens, pocket parks and play gardens, as well as a 14-acre exclusive private forest with an elevated skywalk that offers panoramic views of the city centre.
Sunway PFM says the private forest has a positive effect on the urban atmospheric environment, as it removes gaseous air pollution through its leaves while the trees generally lower air temperatures. The increased tree cover is also able to reduce volatile organic compound emissions and ozone levels within the development.
The management firm has established a forest management plan and a landscape management plan to ensure the trees and ground cover are well maintained for improved air quality.
“We only built a jungle trail in the private forest as we want to maintain the natural form of the forest and do only regular maintenance checks. During the development stage of Sunway Montana, we worked closely with landscape architects in choosing the right type of plants to be planted in the vicinity. Native plants such as saraca cauliflora, dillenia reticulata, tristania whiteana, cananga odorata and lantana camara were used in the landscape as they suit the tropical climate, and thus require less maintenance,” says Sunway property development division central region senior executive director Chong Sau Min.
To maintain such an extensive landscape area, the management has set aside a budget of about RM9,000 to RM10,000 yearly for replanting, clearing the tracks of algae, and other cleaning works within the development.
According to Sunway PFM chief operating officer Cheng Jew Keng, the working relationship of Sunway Montana’s residents in the management corporation (MC) is quite structured. “Our policy is to always practise good corporate governance and be transparent with our business stakeholders.”
“For every resident who joins the MC, there will be clear decision guidelines and financial authorities. We do not make our own decisions and will always refer to the [various] committees instead because they are the owners and have a hand in making the right decision as well as sharing their views.”
To ensure effective communication, each committee is assigned specific duties and responsibilities. “We created a property management application called SPFM, through which residents will be able to lodge complaints and book facilities via their mobile devices. It also serves as an official communication channel for the residents and management,” explains Cheng.
The monthly maintenance fee for Sunway Montana has been kept at 17 sen psf since day one, which is relatively lower than the market rate of 30 sen psf. This is because Sunway Property and Sunway PFM worked very closely from the start.
“We have data-driven insights of what is considered good design that requires minimal maintenance in the future. For instance, Sunway Montana has proper drainage systems that prevent water accumulation and reduce soil erosion,” says Cheng.
“Everything we do has to be well planned and designed from the onset. This is crucial because if the developments were built and designed in a wrong manner, the cost implications will be seen later on,” he explains.
He reckons that future inflationary pressure is unavoidable but when the management decides on the development’s maintenance fees, there is usually a small buffer to cover annual inflation. “Therefore, we hope that both sides will be able to strike a balance and if we are unable to balance both sides, we will bring it back to the MC and let the committee decide.”
Launched at prices of between RM638 and RM679 psf, unit prices have since risen to around RM716 to RM1,001 psf in 2022.
Strata properties have a very tight maintenance budget funded by the owners within the development.
“This is where we need to think of ways to reduce the staffing levels and expenditure spent. As such, we tried to do it in a centralised manner from the pool of resources that we have,” says Cheng.
“For example, we have access to a team of engineers to provide backup services and engineering solutions to Sunway Montana as and when required. This is how we help each other to reduce the cost of maintenance,” he adds.
Sunway PFM has managed to accumulate a healthy sinking fund of close to RM1 million to date. The collection rate was 94% as at Feb 28 this year.
“The residents will generally pay the charges on time because they are satisfied with our service and they understand that they have to pay up as everything needs money to move on. Consequently, having the right project density gives us the base to divide our share value and maintenance charges as well as provide the right kind of facilities within the development,” says Chong.
As for security services, the development received a score of 86% in its annual customer satisfaction survey. The security measures tackle common threats like robbery, damage to property as well as protection of the community within the development to create a safe environment.
The entrance and lobby areas are guarded by security personnel and access cards are provided to residents to enter the premises. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras keep watch on the perimeter fencing and entrance/exit. The system is connected to a digital video recorder in the clubhouse’s management office. Each unit is also equipped with an intercom for residents to communicate among themselves and with the security guards.
Open and transparent communication with residents and implementation of clear house rules so everyone will be treated equally are some of the ways to handle the challenges of managing strata residences, Cheng believes.
To ensure successful management of Sunway Montana, it is important for Sunway PFM to have the right attitude, skill and knowledge as well as sufficient emotional intelligence to be able to relate to the MC and residents, and ultimately, being able to make wise decisions.
“We spent a lot of effort to ensure Sunway Montana is well-planned and designed, with inputs from the right structural consultants and landscape architects. Generally, it is easier to maintain as compared with a high-rise and high-density development, and requires fewer major repairs and mechanical installations in the long run,” says Cheng.
In the not-too-distant future, Sunway PFM intends to have security guards accompany visitors to the respective units of Sunway Montana when they call on friends who reside there. While this will help uplift Sunway Montana’s profile, it will also incur costs, so the plan is still being looked into.
Technology-wise, the management is looking to install additional and new CCTVs that can detect movement and unauthorised entry.
“Another aspect that we have recently implemented is digitalisation. A smart application has been developed for residents to register their guests from their personal devices. Once registered, the guests will receive a QR code and be allowed to enter the premises, which will enhance traffic flow,” says Chong.
The entire process makes the turnaround time faster, but more importantly, the guards will have more time for patrolling and dealing with security issues. This, however, will involve investments from Sunway PFM.
“All of these are expected to be implemented in 2023 and the sinking fund will be sufficient to cover these upgrading works. We just need time to discuss with the residents and convince them,” concludes Chong.
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