'Pioneer of green building practices'

Tributes have poured in for City Development (CDL) deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo, who died of a heart attack yesterday.

Mr Kwek, 62, was described as a "visionary" and a pioneer of green building practices in Singapore.

He was noted as well for his ardent advocacy of sustainable practices in businesses, his skills as a photographer and his involvement in various philanthropic and civic activities.

While property was his career, his life-long interest in photographing nature helped shape his passion for environmental sustainability.

In an interview with The Straits Times just last month, Mr Kwek said: "I'm a nature photographer, so because of the interest developed from young, I have many opportunities to be in contact with nature... The personal love is there.

"Nature cannot be something that we just take for granted."

Some of the photographs he took of the Singapore Botanic Gardens were submitted as part of the Republic's successful bid to have the Gardens named a Unesco World Heritage Site - Singapore's first.

Mr Kwek's love for nature was behind CDL's strategy to become a green builder, which in turn drove changes in the real estate industry.

He urged businesses to be mindful of their environmental impact when he was conferred the prestigious President's Award for the Environment last month. "Without the planet, there will be no businesses or people," he said.

"In fact, investors and consumers are increasingly demanding that companies operate in a responsible manner, especially in terms of their environmental footprint."

Industry players paid tribute to his strong contributions to green efforts over the past two decades.

"Mr Kwek played an instrumental role in nurturing a generation of business executives who are better able to appreciate the strategic importance of corporate social responsibility," said Mr Edwin Seah, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council.

"We have lost a fervent advocate... especially in championing environmental sustainability practices in the corporate sector."

Ms Yvonne Soh, executive director of the Singapore Green Building Council, said Mr Kwek had been instrumental in setting up the organisation in 2009, and had keenly supported its activities and initiatives.

"Mr Kwek had also tirelessly led CDL's green journey since 1995, when CDL first embarked on its 'Conserve as it Constructs' approach towards development and management," she added.

"Since then, CDL has set innumerable benchmarks for green building and resource conservation."

Building and Construction Authority chief executive John Keung noted: "Mr Kwek's leadership in greening Singapore's built environment is exemplified through his membership in the National Climate Change Network and presidency at the Global Compact Network Singapore."

He added that Mr Kwek contributed significantly as a member of the National Productivity Council and as the co-chair of an expert panel to explore ways to improve construction productivity.

"We will miss his invaluable contributions towards creating a liveable and high-quality environment for Singaporeans," he said.

CapitaLand president and group chief executive Lim Ming Yan called Mr Kwek a "visionary who changed the real estate industry in Singapore", adding: "As a tireless champion of sustainability, he has raised the bar for Singapore's building sector and helped grow the country's reputation globally as one that prides itself on sustainability.

"Singapore's real estate industry has lost a beacon and a role model."

Mr Kwek also took time to give back to society in various community and civic organisations.

He was a dedicated member of the board of trustees at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) from 2006 to March this year.

"Mr Kwek's passion for NTU went well beyond his formal roles as a trustee. He had a big heart for the community and for young people in social enterprise," said university president Bertil Andersson.

"To spur our art, design and media students to excel in photography, he made a personal gift to NTU in 2009 to establish the Kwek Leng Joo Prize for Excellence in Still Photography," he added.

Mr Kwek is survived by his wife and two sons Eik Sheng and Eik Feng.

This article was first published on November 17, 2015.
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