People living in urban areas of the Philippines spend an average of four hours being stuck in traffic every day. Many urban Malaysians come close to that as well.
What’s more, according to a recently released workplace survey conducted by an insurance company, Malaysians work on average 15 hours more than their contracted hours each week compared with employees in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Work-life balance has never been more pertinent in today’s world, as more and more people seek a better quality of life.
“These days, we have such hectic work schedules. If we compound that with the daily traffic jam and reach home at 8 or 9 o’clock, then life is not meaningful,” says Edward Heng, head of township for the Denai Alam, Elmina East and Bukit Subang developments in the Klang Valley.
“A work-life balance means we have more time to spend with our friends and family. If precious time is wasted on the road, then life is meaningless.
“But if we live in an area that is quiet, where we can unwind, exercise in the morning or go for a stroll before or after work, that is work-life balance,” he says emphatically.
Add to that a design inspired by traditional kampung communal, a green lung, and natural stream nearby, and the appeal of going home reaches a new level altogether.
One township that offers all of this is Denai Alam. The 400ha low-density Denai Alam is one of four freehold townships within the 2,000ha Sime Darby Property development known as City of Elmina. (The other three townships are Bukit Subang, Elmina East and Elmina West.)
Located along the Guthrie Corridor Expressway to the west of Kuala Lumpur, City of Elmina is nestled next to a 1,000ha permanent forest reserve.
“Imagine working in the city centre but living next to a forest reserve. Once the DASH (Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway) is completed in early 2020, it will take you just 15 to 20 minutes to reach the Penchala Link from City of Elmina,” says Heng.
He adds that the Guthrie Corridor Expressway links to the North-South Expressway in the south and Kuala Lumpur-Kuala Selangor Expressway in the north. The Elmina interchange is also set to open early next year. With that, there will be two ways to get to the City of Elmina from the highways: through the Denai Alam and Elmina exits.
A key design feature within City of Elmina is the 120ha central park, which is essentially an extension of the existing forest reserve.
“We created this park in the most central, prime location within the development because we want the public to connect with the forest reserve,” says Heng.
There are five different park concepts within the central park – forest park, cultural park, urban park, community park and sports park – each of which is open to the public.
Each serves to promote the township’s “key pillars of wellness”: community wellness, mental wellness, physical wellness, family wellness and environmental wellness.
Creating A Green Heritage in the City of Elmina
The Elmina Living Heritage Park is a reforestation project that will replant and conserve endangered tree species.
“We worked with the Tropical Rainforest Conservation Research Centre to go into the forest reserve to collect endangered, rare and threatened plant species and plant them within our park,” explains Heng.
These species include Shorea and Hopea, genus of plants in the Dipterocarpaceae family, or tropical lowland rainforest trees.
“We want both our residents as well as the general public to experience a forest environment through the park. In 10 to 20 years, when the seedlings have grown, our next generation can go to our knowledge centre in the 60-acre (24ha) park to learn more about our rainforest,” he adds.
The central park is designed in the shape of a basin. When there is no rain, it will function as a dry park.
“But let’s say we have a rainfall worse than what happened in Penang recently, then the water level will increase and overflow into the green areas of the central park, which has been designed to mitigate a 1,000-year flood (ie, a flood that has the chance to occur only once in 1,000 years),” he says, adding that houses and commercial areas are all built on higher levels.
A space of about 20ha has als been allocated for wetland rehabilitation purposes throughout the central park, with ponds and fruit trees to attract birds and even monkeys.
“We hope to create a mini ecosystem there. Lately, we spotted small, orange-head flamingos at the community park,” shares Heng.
A river also runs through the park, emerging from the forest reserve and crossing the Elmina city centre before joining Sungai Subang further downstream.
“The river is only about half to one foot deep in some areas and shallow enough for children to wade in or catch fish and tadpoles in.
“We have also widened the river within the township and created gentle slopes to allow residents to access the water easily,” he says, adding that the design of the park is based on the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design concept, where the security of residential areas is taken care of.
City of Elmina also features a 90km cycling and jogging track off the main road, complete with landscaped buffers for the safety of the users.
“Basically, we have 45km of neighbourhood tracks, which are cycling tracks within each phase itself, as well as a city-wide track of another 45km which links the different phases within the townships.
“Cycling within the township instead of driving will help to reduce carbon footprint,” says Heng.
Effort has also been put into the overall landscape design to maintain green spaces within the development.
“We have ample green space within each phase,” says Heng.
“It’s also quiet over here. And being close to the forest reserve, in the morning or after a downpour, we can see a lovely veil of mist there,” he said.
Well-Being All Round
To help foster a sense of community among the residents, the community park will include a pioneering community orchard. In the slightly under 1ha space, residents will be encouraged to plant herbs, vegetables or fruits (on a first-come-first-served basis).
The profits generated will be channelled towards managing and sustaining the community garden.
“By doing so, community members will build closer relationships with each other and have something in common.
“We are taking a bold step to incorporate this.
“Once proven successful, we will replicate this in other phases,” Heng says.
Cultural events will take place in the cultural park, which will incorporate a proposed mosque as well as the proposed Majlis Perban-daran Shah Alam offices.
Meanwhile, the sports park will be equipped with various exercise stations for the public while the urban park will front the Elmina City Centre with al fresco food and beverage as well as retail outlets.
The City of Elmina will also feature a Wellness Cluster next to the Forest Reserve, a one-stop area dedicated to complementary, curative, rehabilitative and preventive healthcare services.