“Building TRX ─ a Smart and Sustainable World Business Address“
“We don’t follow the market, we create a market, with a vision that sets us apart.”, says CEO of TRX City Sdn Bhd
When Dato’ Azmar Talib was tasked with leading a team to develop Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), he knew he would be handling a monumental challenge, despite being a 30-year veteran of the property industry
Dato’ Azmar Talib is the CEO of TRX City Sdn Bhd, the master developer of TRX ─ Malaysia’s only International financial centre (IFC) and KL’s next Central Business District (CBD). As the master developer of a national project, the company was mandated to develop the masterplan, integrate smart and sustainable infrastructure, as well as undertake all planning, marketing, enhancement, management and infrastructure provisions.
TRX was not to be like any other city centre project, but one that was designed to be a thriving ecosystem of business and finance, cutting-edge technology, accessibility, sustainability, liveability and a green soul, all spread across 70 acres of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle.
How TRX Began
“We had a clear vision, which is to create an IFC for Kuala Lumpur,” remembers Dato’ Azmar. “It was conceptualised with our target customers in mind, and we worked backwards from there.”
The target customers were the financial services industry and following an international tender held in 2014, they succeeded in getting many global players including HSBC, Prudential, Lendlease and Mulia Group. They were the cornerstones who helped the project lift off
TRX, as it stands today, showcases world-class infrastructure that comprises a slew of Grade A, LEED gold certified, MSC-status buildings, a network of highways, underground roads, a dedicated MRT exchange station, a pedestrian boulevard that connects to the Bukit Bintang shopping belt, and an environ of residential, hospitality, retail, leisure, cultural offerings as well as a green lung that breathes through a 10-acre tiered rooftop city park ─ one of the largest rooftop parks in the world.
The development is anchored by TRX’s iconic 492-meter tall skyscraper called Exchange 106 ─ a 106-storey tower of column-free office space, adorned with a glittering 11-storey high crown.
GBI and LEEDS Certification
Earth works for TRX started in 2013, following an international masterplan competition and relocation activities. As the master developer, TRX provides common infrastructure for district-wide usage, which includes a wastewater recycling plant, roads and tunnels, as well as a world-class public realm. Today, 99% of the infrastructure has been completed.
The Phase 1 of the project is now in operation. Exchange 106 and Menara Prudential opened in 2019. Meanwhile, HSBC Malaysia launched its 33-storey Menara IQ in March of 2022 and Affin Bank is relocating into their new headquarter in 2022.
As for local and international recognition for the project’s sustainability efforts, TRX has received a Platinum neighbourhood-level provisional Green Building Index (GBI) Certification and LEED Gold Certification ─ a first for Malaysia in neighbourhood development for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
In December 2021, TRX was awarded the IEM Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award for its wastewater treatment plant capable of recycling an impressive 80% of the district’s sewage for non-potable use (such as cooling, toilet flushing and irrigation).
Successful reduction of resource use ─ whether in water or energy consumption ─ was always a top factor of TRX’s sustainability imperatives.
Dato’ Azmar recalls some of TRX City’s most memorable challenges and achievements.
“Financing was one of the most challenging aspects of this project. We needed to convince major players to invest in TRX at a time when we had yet to commence anything on ground, and when the market was soft.”
In addition, bringing outdated infrastructure in the district’s surrounding neighbourhood of Imbi and Pudu to a world-class level fit for an IFC was another hurdle.
“We had to make sure that TRX would not end up as an island in an ageing part of the city, but a development that would be a part of the larger neighbourhood; one that would be physically connected and accessible, and help uplift and enhance the surrounding area. Furthermore, our investors each had different mandates with high requirements, making it more challenging.”
He led his team to build strong rapport with his investors and partners, pushed them to focus on delivery and level of service, and rallied the employees to weather some of the most difficult obstacles, including company legacy issues and the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.
There were many milestones that Dato’ Azmar and his 100-plus strong team achieved. Coming up with a distinct masterplan that was able to create new excitement for an old area was definitely one of them.
The TRX masterplan prioritised urban design excellence; to achieve this, the team collaborated with local and international expertise to come up with specific detailed plans for pedestrian mobility, smart city and sustainability, as well as safety and security.
Community building is also high on its list. From sensitively relocating refugees from their dilapidated buildings to better and safer homes with the help of DBKL and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to building a modern and spacious Integrated Complex (ICC) Pudu for market vendors moving from Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang wet market, Dato’ Azmar made sure that TRX stepped up beyond what was expected, in its role as a major national project.
Investing in ESG for a Sustainable Business Model
Describing the importance of adherence to best practices, Dato’ Azmar says, “It is important to follow a sustainable business model in deal making, where long term growth takes precedence over short term gains.” That is why he took it a step further by factoring in Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG). It is to ensure TRX meets the needs and interests of investors for the long term and that they remain a part of this resilient and sustainable district.
“We invested in ESG because we understood its importance when we kicked off the project more than 10 years ago. We outlined a thorough development code that spelt out to investors our sustainability plan. TRX is now pedestrian-friendly, our green open spaces make up close to a quarter of the district. TRX also created a District Management framework to ensure safety and operational efficiency, and we continue to work with DBKL to align with the city’s sustainability goals and help elevate Kuala Lumpur as a green city.”
“Dato’ Azmar Talib believes it is important to be a value creator for people and a problem solver. As a real estate developer and master planner for TRX, he followed a sustainable business model and invested in ESG to build a socially and environmentally responsible, safe, smart and green district to attract world class brands and to raise the standard of living for the Malaysian community.”
Shanggari Balakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, MORS Group
“Sustainability lies at the core of the TRX development. It can be seen in their green certified buildings, energy conservation and water recycling efforts, among others. This can be attributed to Dato’ Azmar’s leadership, someone who clearly factored ESG into his masterplan to ensure that the futuristic, financial centre that he and his team built would stay sustainable and stand the test of time.”
Dr. Jayanthi Desan, Lead Jury, ACES Awards