Sustainable Development and Planning 2016

8th Conference on Sustainable Development & Planning


6-8 December 2016
Penang, Malaysia



SDP 2016

The eighth International Conference on Sustainable Development and Planning took place in George Town, Penang, Malaysia, organised by the Wessex Institute, UK, represented by Professor Carlos A Brebbia, the Universiti Teknologi MARA, represented by Professor Syed Sobri Zubir and the University Sains Malaysia, represented by Professor Ahmad Sanusi Hassan.

The meeting was sponsored by the WIT Transactions in Ecology and the Environment and the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning.

The conference started in Skiathos in 2003 and continued in Bologna (2005), The Algarve (2007), Cyprus (2009), the New Forest, UK, home of the Wessex Institute (2011), Kos (2013) and Istanbul Technical University (2015).

The conference attracted a substantial number of delegates from different countries, as problems related to development and planning, affecting rural as well as urban areas, are present in all regions of the world. The growth of the cities has resulted in the destruction of the environment and loss of quality of life. Urbanisation can also aggravate problems faced by rural areas or open spaces in forest, mountainous and coastal areas.

Developers and planners need to take into consideration the interaction between different regions and develop new methodologies to mitigate the effects of environmental problems and the non-sustainable use of available resources.

Planning needs to take into consideration energy saving and eco-friendly solutions which comprise the area of new materials and processes, emphasising resource optimisation.

The challenge is also in avoiding negative social, economic and political dimensions of any new development involving the community. Only through considering all aspects of the problem can a long-term sustainable solution be assured.

The implementation of ever increasing smart technological solutions alone does not ensure the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Sophisticated social engineering experiments are also likely to fail without community support. The solution lies in the collaboration of all parties through communication networks and the sharing of communal resources. The role of landscape planning, cultural and heritage sectors, green spaces and communal facilities need to be emphasised.

The Conference brought together planners, environmentalists, architects, engineers, policy makers, economists and other stakeholders, to discuss the latest advances in the field.

Opening of the Conference

Prof Carlos A Brebbia opened the meeting by expressing his gratitude to his Co-Chairs, Prof S Zubir and Prof A Hassan for their collaboration in arranging this important conference in Penang.

Malaysia, Carlos said, is a country in a rapid stage of development and the applications of Sustainable Development and Planning methodologies will be essential to ensure that their present needs do not compromise the ability of its resources for future generations.

The organisers are particularly indebted to the School of Housing, Building and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia, for the support of the meeting. The School, which was founded 30 years ago, has made significant progress in training and research. Its objective is to encourage the development of an eco and environmentally friendly society. In this regard, it has established a new Centre for Sustainability which further stresses its commitment to be a centre of excellence in the field.

Carlos explained that WIT is an institution dedicated to the dissemination of scientific and technological information and hence collaborates, rather than competes, with other organisations in academia and research.

The Institute fulfils its objectives through a very intensive programme of development supported by industry. It has been a pioneer in the use of the boundary element method – a method originating at Southampton University where the research group was first based – for the solution of practical engineering problems.

He explained through a series of examples how the technique can be applied in infinite media (such as the case of structures in the sea), for example mesh generation (requiring only the body to be discretized), to obtain accurate results (such as cases like stress singularities), for moving boundaries (where mesh deforms with the moving surface) and mesh growth (as in the case of requiring to add new elements to represent, for instance, a growing crack).

Carlos then explained that the Institute has an interest in energy and environmentally friendly buildings through its conversion of heritage buildings into furnished flats. A particular case is the historical building where the Institute started in 1986, now a block of sixteen flats designed for optimum efficiency and comfort.

Another important activity of WIT – Carlos said – is the organisation of specialised meetings and conferences, such as this Sustainable Development and Planning 2016. 20 to 25 meetings a year are held in different locations throughout the world in order to attract diverse research groups and international audiences. The emphasis of the meetings is in developing networks linked to international projects as a way of transferring ideas across national boundaries.

All papers presented at the WIT International Conferences are archived in Open Access format in the eLibrary of the Institute ( from where they can be easily and freely downloaded. This Open Access policy has ensured that the WIT papers can obtain a large number of citations through databases such as Google Scholar, for instance.

He also wanted to thank his Co-Chairs for suggesting the location of George Town, a most suitable venue in view of the topic of the meeting. It is also pertinent in view of the extensive research and restoration work being carried out to the Heritage Architecture of the most beautiful island of Penang.

George Town

George Town is a unique site in view of its rich architectural heritage and landscape. The whole area of Penang has a great diversity of ecosystems which require protection, particularly in view of the rapid development that has taken place in recent years.

The town was established by Captain Light of the British East India Company in 1786 as the first establishment in South East Asia, in competition with the older Dutch East India Company. It became part of the British Straits Settlement together with Singapore and Malacca, resulting in a British Crown Colony in 1867.

Light erected Fort Cornwallis as the most appropriate establishment for trading. It soon developed further as George Town was created a free port attracting thousands of vessels every year. The four decades following that were the most successful for Penang and the time where most of the heritage buildings were constructed.

Penang is one of the places around the world most in need of applying Development and Planning tools that will render its future sustainable.

Carlos ended his address by inviting the participants to visit the WIT Campus next time they are in the location, as it is most convenient to reach from the city of London, as well as from the major airports of Heathrow and Gatwick.

He wished the participants a very successful conference and hoped to see many of them take part in future WIT meetings and activities.

Prof Ahmad Sanusi Hassan is Deputy Dean of the School of Housing, Building and Planning of Universiti Sains Malaysia where he lectures in Architecture. He has been awarded his Architectural Degree at the University of Houston and a PhD at Nottingham University in the UK. He has received the National Book Award and Regional authors from Asia at the Earth Summit 2013.

His presentation opened the meeting with a paper on ‘Colonial city planning in Penang with a special reference to the Government buildings’, highlighting the importance of the town at the time of the British.

Penang is the second city in Malaysia in terms of inhabitants and has a unique multicultural legacy reflected in its architecture and culture.

The Universiti Sains Malaysia is one of the oldest in the country and continues to grow since its foundation. Prof Hassan’s group contributed at the meeting with research on Penang’s environment.

His address started by describing the historical development of the city since the foundation of Fort Cornwallis and the different architectural areas, concentrating on the Government buildings.

These buildings were to portray an image of British supremacy. They provide an eclectic type of architecture, based on Greek and Roman forms and importing elements of Malay and Indian buildings.

Prof Hassan described in detail some of these important buildings, the first being Penang State Council Assembly, where the Greek influence is strongest. Another outstanding building is the Town Hall built in 1850 which includes elements of Malaysian architecture. The High Court building from 1905 is also an important construction incorporating elements of Malaysian and Indian architecture to basic classical elements.

Climate conditions helped to generate a hybrid type of architecture. The style was achieved by the use of porticos, pitched roofs, roof overhangs, recessed walls and other elements responding to the climate conditions.

Conference Sessions 

  • City planning
  • Community planning
  • Transportation
  • The built environment
  • Sustainable solutions in emerging countries
  • Policies and planning
  • Energy systems
  • Quality of life

Invited Presentations

  • “Colonial city planning in Penang with a special reference to the Government buildings”, by Ahmad S Hassan, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
  • “Approach to solving the e-waste problem – case study Ghana”, by Roman Brandtweiner, Vienna University of Economics & Business, Austria
  • “Water related disaster in urban areas – case study of a city in North East India”, by Nawajyoti Sharma, DHI, India
  • “Sustainable heritage environment in south east Asian region”, by Shahrul Yani, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
  • “Daylight distribution patterns in light wells in residential buildings in Penang, Malaysia”, by Zeyad Al-Absi, University of Science, Malaysia
  • “Rethinking the rituals in the Malay House”, by Syed Sobri Zubir, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
  • “Human rights and water: the key to a sustainable development”, by Paulo Canelas de Castro, University of Macau, China

Keynote Address

A special keynote address was given by Professor Paulo Canelas de Castro from the University of Macau on the topic of human rights to water, discussing the latest additions of International Water Law and how sustainable development pertains to the global water problem related to water scarcity. Paulo has received many recognitions and awards, including the Eminent Scientist Award of the Wessex Institute.

Paulo started by mentioning that water stress is a problem which affects 20% of the world population. It is expected that by 2030, half the world will live in this condition. It is aggravated by unpredictable climate change.

Water Law is a comparatively recent initiative as until recently water was not considered an issue. There is a need to think about the different aspects related to water co-operation in order to avoid situations of conflict that can lead to wars. There is hope in this regard as water – as distinct to oil – has not generally led to wars but to a substantial number of treaties.

To resolve the water problem one needs to integrate all factors, considering as well the environmental sustainability and the proper balance of ecosystems.

It is important – Paulo said - to achieve the integration of all stakeholders in this process of co-operation. Debate helps to promote peace, security, sustainable economic growth, along with ecological respect. This applies to local, national, regional and international levels. It requires, in particular, a strong citizen participation in decision making with a culture of consultation.

Another new thinking has been the eco-recognition of water which is now perceived as a commodity. This induces conservation and its related allocation of resources.

It is necessary – Paulo continued - to focus on concrete actions and clear commitments, resulting in new strategies for international development. The target of the Millennium Development Goals set 2015 as the date for halving the number of people without access to water for human consumption and sanitation, a target that has been largely met.

The challenge now is to move towards a more sustainable future. It was also felt that Human Rights and inequalities were ignored up to then. The sustainable development agreed for 2030 deals instead with these issues. Water safe for drinking and sanitation is now seen as a Human Right.

The concept of water as “essential for the full enjoyment of life and all other Human Rights” was established with the United Water Resolution of July 2010. This was a new development recognising that water is essential for all human activities and no other right can be exercised without it. It is a prerequisite to other Human Rights.

We are – Paulo concluded - at the right moment to take action to remedy what promises to be an ever increasing chronic water stress situation.

Meeting of the ISAC and Editorial Board

The meeting of the International Scientific Advisory Committee of the conference and the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning took place during an evening to discuss ways in which the meeting and the publication can be improved.

The success of the meeting is based on its continuous evolution since it started in 2008. Because of that, it is essential to review its objectives and the list of topics to incorporate the latest areas of research. The same applies to the Journal which is closely associated with the success of the conference, having now increased its publication frequency to eight issues per year.

A number of colleagues were nominated to join the Editorial Board of the Journal. After discussing their qualifications it was decided that Prof Carlos A Brebbia would approach those selected and prepare the necessary letters of invitation.

Carlos also pointed out that the success of the conference had led to reconvening it next year, rather than waiting until 2018. The 9th meeting will take place in Bristol, in collaboration with the University of the West of England, in June 2017.

Carlos closed the meeting by thanking the participants for their valuable contribution to the review process of abstracts and papers, a process essential to ensure the quality of the conference proceedings.

Conference Dinner

The conference dinner took place in the unique setting of Suffolk House which was built by Captain Francis Light (1740-1794), founder of George Town, on the site of his vast estate. He lived there with Martina Rozells, the great love of his life, who was of Portuguese-Siamese descent. Although he bequeathed the estate to Martina, the executors of the Will cheated her out of it.

In 1805 the estate was sold to William Edward Phillips (1769-1850) one of the first governors and the man who reputedly rebuilt the house in its present form. Over later years the house fell into disrepair until it was restored in 2007 with the help of several donations and in collaboration with Penang State Government.

The building is now a renowned restaurant as well as a venue for exhibitions, seminars and conferences. It is popular for weddings and has an excellent cuisine and wine cellar.

The delegates enjoyed the setting and hearing about the historical connotations of the building. At the end of the dinner, Carlos expressed his appreciation for the work done by his Co-Chairs and their excellent choice of conference location and venue. He also proposed a toast to Malaysia and its spirit of tolerance, a country that presents a great diversity of cultures and people in which the different groups live in harmony. This ought to be an example to follow for different regions of the world. He also offered as a souvenir a copy of a book illustrating some of the architectural heritage of Penang.

The conference offered the delegates numerous occasions for meeting to hold informal discussions in addition to those taking place during the conference sessions. The delegates had coffee breaks and lunches together. The meeting was characterised by its friendliness and relaxed atmosphere to encourage the developments of contacts and networking.

Close of the Conference

Carlos closed the meeting, thanking the delegates for their presence in the name of his Institute and those of his Co-Chair and respective Universities.

The success of this conference will ensure that another excellent meeting will take place at the University of the West of England in Bristol from 27-29 June 2017. For further information please contact Irene Moreno, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Associated conferences

  • STREMAH/2017
  • SDP/2017
  • SUST CITY/2017
  • Energy & Sustainability/2017