Smart cities as essential must-haves

11:23 | 05/06/2019
Vietnam has been taking the first steps on the path towards smart and sustainable cities. Now, the country has to develop a smart infrastructure system including green buildings, effective waste treatment systems, clean energy, and reaching out for more co-operation opportunities for the private sector to join. Bich Ngoc reports.  
smart cities as essential must haves
Analysts maintain that only pragmatic and efficient solutions will last the distance in the smart township wave, Photo: Shutterstock

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are heading towards becoming smart and sustainable cities thanks to some of the most tech-savvy young people found anywhere in the world.

Matthew Powell, director of property consultancy Savills Hanoi, said that local authorities at the city level have been making concentrated efforts in building a smart city, centred on improving the efficiency of electricity and water use, as well as social utility infrastructure. However, Powell said that learning, research, and testing are essential.

“Local real estate enterprises need to take reference from regional countries and seek advice from international consultants to find the right direction and smartest products for their projects,” he said.

The property technology trend meanwhile is currently strong globally, and enjoying a huge amount of investment. Investors have a lot of choice in applying smart technology in their projects, but not all directions are appropriate with the characteristics of their products and Vietnamese user habits.

Vietnam has many advantages to develop smart and sustainable cities. The country’s population is young, with 70 per cent of its citizens below the age of 35, and highly literate with a 98.5 per cent literacy rate among those aged 15 to 35.

The Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study found that 84 per cent of Vietnamese respondents shop online at least once a month, trailing closely behind Thailand at 85 per cent. Developers of new residential projects are leveraging this trend and building smart townships to attract young buyers.

Foreseeing the potential and bright future of sustainable development, many developers have geared themselves towards becoming smart.

One of those, leading Singaporean developer Keppel Land, is partnering Keppel Urban Solutions, an end-to-end urban developer, to create a $500 million Saigon Sports City in Ho Chi Minh City, combining high-quality urban living with vibrant and healthy lifestyle concepts. According to Linson Lim, president of Keppel Land Vietnam, the group will incorporate cutting-edge technologies into the development of Saigon Sports City.

“We aim to establish Saigon Sports City as a model for other urban developments in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, which is undergoing transformation into a smart city,” Lim said.

Ho Chi Minh City is forging ahead with smart city development by harnessing data and technology to improve sustainability and enhance the quality of life for the people living and working in the city.

“The Keppel Group, with its diverse capabilities, can support the city in developing solutions for smart cities, whether it is providing access to innovative real estate solutions, clean water, waste-to-energy plants, data centres, or urban logistics,” Lim said.

Meanwhile, Lotte Group from South Korea is also implementing its $884 million eco-smart development in Ho Chi Minh City to be a complex of shopping mall, offices, hotels, serviced residences, and apartments. The 11 residential towers, 15-40 storeys each and covering 50,000 square metres will be built first. Lotte Group will also complete 25,000sq.m of contracted infrastructure that will serve the site, including four roadways, before transferring it to local authorities.

The trend is not for foreign developers only. Domestic developers are actively improving themselves to the trend of smart and sustainable cities. For example, Sunshine Group has built a series of smarthomes and a smart living ecosystem by applying integrated smart technology into their products.

According to property consultancy JLL Vietnam, Sunshine Group has created a similarity to the Grab system to serve their residents, along with a smarthome app that offers cashless payment through their Sunshine Online service. The overall aim is to provide homeowners with an intelligent and hi–tech urban complex that focuses on transportation, shopping, and relaxation services.

Vingroup, the biggest local real estate developer in Vietnam, upgraded its 280-hectare large-scale project into a dynamic township named Vinhomes Smart City in the west of Hanoi this past April.

Property developer BRG has also co-ordinated with Japanese group Sumitomo to develop a $4.2 billion smart city project in Hanoi. According to BRG chairwoman Nguyen Thi Nga, the smart city will become a landmark development in Hanoi’s gateway, driving urbanisation in the northern Red River area, creating numerous jobs, and propelling the city’s development.

Masayuki Hyodo, CEO of Sumitomo Group, commented that the smart city model currently lures much international attention. It aims to create a living zone for residents, where environment-friendly features combine with advanced landscapes and broad green spaces.

The project uses artificial intelligence with facial recognition features and a single command centre to provide a full suite of information services for occupants, from air quality monitoring to environmental pollution warnings.

Stephen Wyatt, country director for JLL Vietnam, said that smart townships are gaining significant popularity that has directly led to a series of changes in the Vietnamese property market. “While it could be a good option for investors and individual buyers, the latter should be aware that developers are providing tech solutions to varying degrees. Besides, technology that is not pragmatic and does not enhance efficiency or liveability for users may not take off.”

The Vietnamese property market is starting its journey where both public and private sectors are changing the urban landscape to incorporate technology that could enhance the living environment.

“We expect that for future real estate developments, ­staying smart will not just be a trend but also become a must-have,” Wyatt said. “The adoption of new technology platforms generates new and more easily-accessible market data, which is key for overall real estate transparency in ­Vietnam.”

Huy Pham - Operations director Sain-Gobain

smart cities as essential must haves

We are well aware of the issues related to sustainability and this is a development strategy for Sain-Gobain. Our products therefore must bring about long-term benefits and help reduce materials. Sustainable products force us to reduce manufacturing expenses, but we can achieve a long-term benefit, and protect the environment.

We have set big challenges but we are determined to hit these targets. We have set up targets such as reducing carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process to 25 per cent. Right now almost 100 per cent of income material has been recycled, and we use bio-materials which are environment-friendly.

We are also trying to reduce input material for our manufacturing system. During recent times we have reduced around 20 per cent of the ­material. Many other solutions have been applied, such as using green water harvesting from rain instead of the city’s water and recycled waste. Apart from that, we are also recycling waste released from construction sites so that it cannot impact the environment.

One of the most difficulties for Vietnam’s cities to transform into green cities is the reinforcement which is still not strong enough from competent bodies, though the Vietnamese government has introduced a good legal system governing this issue.

Baptiste Legeret - Commercial director, INSEE

smart cities as essential must haves

We are producing with the theme that all of our products are sustainable for our ­company, ourselves, and for our children too.

INSEE is pushing for all of our products to be the most sustainable. Our motto is that we build for life, and this means we try to reduce our impact on the total life cycle. We can do this by investing in state-of-the-art technology, trying to reduce waste, and investing in innovating new products which are competitive and made of alternative materials.

Sustainable development is placed at the core of our business strategy to balance the triple bottom line of economical growth, environmental ­performance, and social ­responsibility.

Furthermore, our approach not only helps guarantee our long-term business but also helps us address both global and industrial challenges. This commitment is not only part of our corporate culture, but it also provides us a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

As a leading business in adopting a sustainable approach in Vietnam, for the past 10 years we have been implementing a wide range of activities and campaigns to ensure we balance our economical, environmental, and social responsibilities. As one of the pioneers in this, we have experienced and overcome challenges in the certainty that our efforts will lay a solid foundation for sustainability.

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