Alam Sutera and Their Spatial Planning Principles

By Annabel Noor Asyah

Who doesn’t know about Alam Sutera? One of the most popular new townships which located near Jakarta, Indonesia. Alam Sutera is known as an integrated property developer which focusing on the development of residential areas, commercial districts as well as the management of industrial areas. This new township built in 1994 on a 800 hectares piece of land. It was an integrated area that located in Serpong, Tangerang. After more than 20 years become the part of property sector in Indonesia, now Alam Sutera had launched 37 residential clusters and 2 apartments building in the township. Each cluster consists of 150-300 houses that is supported with a range of premium facilities such as education, entertainment, healthcare centers as well as one stop shopping area. As time passed by, now Alam Sutera has been evolving their business by developing Suverna Sutera, another township project which has been hold the development permit of 2.600 hectares of land in Pasar Kemis, Tangerang.

To most people, developers’ way of work always being correlated to a greedy business development process. Developers always intended to aim the highest profit by selling endless property units. Even sometimes, developer is not paying attention to current spatial planning regulation that applicable in the development area just to get their financial capital back as soon as possible. The carelessness of spatial planning resulted in many damage such as the degradation of land quality, the decreasing of environmental and social aspects, etc. How about Alam Sutera? Does this stereotype apply to their the business process?  

It is well-known that there are so many aspects that have to be considered when planning a new township such as environmental, social, and also economic aspect. The representation of Alam Sutera, Mr. Soelaeman, in one opportunity talked about how Alam Sutera development aiming to achieve environmental sustainability by implement ecological planning in their business development. The developer was trying to combine many aspects to their development such as design, environmental, and social to their long term plan.

In implementing their development projects, Alam Sutera had their own design principles which are Focus Inward, Create Special Gateway, Town Center in the Heart, Residential Areas Surround the Center, and Direct Traffic to the Perimeter. Those design principles were made to reinforce the structure and identity of the community with extensive landscaping on major streets and open spaces and create an unifying urban design treatment in the Town Center.

Illustration of Alam Sutera Design Principles
Source: Alam Sutera

Based on those principles, Alam Sutera have a masterplan that has to be reviewed every 5 to 10 years in order to improve the quality of Alam Sutera.  Masterplan reviews also intended as a reaction to internal and external changes towards a better future of Alam Sutera.

Design concept of Alam Sutera is garden city which accentuate the park and open spaces with an easy structure to access every parts of the area. A good development is indicated by how the area is well understood by public. Alam Sutera uses recreational facilities, parks, and open space landscapes to communicate their development goals to the public. Alam Sutera mostly placed their recreational facilities, parks and open space on the heart of their development areas. They also had their own road planning principles which are hierarchy road system; loop system and minimizing crossing activity; avoid ribon development and consider about the road’s capacity.   The implementation of their road planning principles can be seen on this picture :

Illustration of Alam Sutera’s Road Planning
Source: Alam Sutera

Alam Sutera concerns about the environmental sustainability as well. As stated on the company website, Alam Sutera has become the pioneer in green living and dynamic icon of urban development and has been committed to build a better life for the community. It sounds like a promotional template for public relation officer in any other property developers. But according to Mr. Soelaeman, in the beginning stage of Alam Sutera development, they started with the vision about how to preserve the land carrying capacity in Serpong. The reason behind that mission was the fact that Serpong area was prone to flood.

The real action that took by Alam Sutera was the development of green tunnel, which consists of thousand trembesi trees that contribute to produce fresh air and give such an aesthetic view to the township. Trembesi trees have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide and land water. The presence of large trees is also an alternative to filter the penetration of the sunlight, so it doesn’t directly hit the earth surface. The heat that released by the earth will also be absorbed first by the tree canopy before being released back into the atmosphere. Thus, the ambient temperature can be maintained. The presentation of green area in Alam Sutera is 40% from the total area. That number of fact shows the real commitment of Alam Sutera to create a health living environment by implementing ecological planning concept. This green tunnel became very  iconic to Alam Sutera.

Green Tunnel of Alam Sutera
 Source: @AlamSuteraInfo

Another story about the development of Alam Sutera new township is about how they relocate the local people who initially lived there. Sometimes, developer have to displace a group of people who encroach their land with a minimum compensation. And later after that, the local people will do the protest and demand a high compensation for their displaced houses. Does it also happen to Alam Sutera? According to the explanation of Mr. Soelaeman, in the beginning of the development, Alam Sutera have excellently managed to relocate a group of local people who initially lived on their land that has been plotted to be the residential area. There was no other options for Alam Sutera except to relocate and compensate them. Alam Sutera provide the local people a piece of land which located near the Alam Sutera development site. Moreover, Alam Sutera also provide them with basic facilities to ensure that they live in harmony. Some of the relocated people also had the opportunity to work with Alam Sutera.  

From the explanation above, it can be concluded that Alam Sutera development process is not only aiming to get the highest profit, but also paying attention to the environmental sustainability through their design concept. Alam Sutera as one of the biggest developer in Indonesia also considering the livelihood of local people who affected by the development. Those actions should be considered as they way of how Alam Sutera implementing the spatial planning regulation.


Alam Sutera. 2019. “Planning Principle: Ecological Planning for Environmental Sustainability”. Alam Sutera

Gumelar, Ofi Sofyan. 2017. “Blusukan Seru di Alam Sutera”.

Siahaan, Surtan. 2018. “Alam Sutera, Nyamannya Hidup di Kawasan Hijau”.

The Impacts of Self-Help Housing Implementation to Households Livelihood Assets

Annabel Noor Asyah S.T., M.Sc.

Generally house known as a shelter, place that provide protection from danger and weather. However, the meaning of housing is actually more than that. It is not only about a place with specific structures but also about the activities that the households do to live and improve their life that related to the livelihoods concept. There are several housing theories and concepts that make us have better understanding about what actually housing is and alternative housing provision scheme that perceived effective especially for people who live in urban poverty. One of them is self-help concept, a popular idea about housing by John F.C Turner, an English Architect who had experiences in housing development in Latin America. In this essay the argument about the connection between self-help theory with livelihood theory will be developed.

Like a chapter of his book, Turner introduced the idea about “housing as a verb” which described housing as a process that human life depends on, not only as a product. Such activities like nurturing the children, taking care of ourselves, and preparing the foods are processes that essential to households life. According to Turner, based on the strong engagement between housing and households activities, decision making power about housing have to be decided by the house users themselves because they know better about what they need or users as the principal actors. The main idea of self-help is the house users have the freedom to build, to use and manage the house by their own way (Turner, 1972). The characteristics of self-help concept are: It is a house-users design and management process; Emphasizes the crucial term of “who-decides” which leads to autonomy concept with the house-users as the decision makers (Harris,2003); Limits the government intervention (Jenkins, 2007). Although the house-users have bigger portion of role to provide houses, they still need government support to provide things that they can not provide alone, such as basic infrastructures like the road and sewage. Government also have to make laws about limitation of what people can do also have to provide and protect access to element of housing process such as land, materials, tools etc. (Nientied, 1988).  

To have a better understanding about the role of housing, we also need to pay attention to the livelihoods theory. Livelihoods known as combination of activities, assets, and capabilities of the households to assure that they can survive, maintain and improve their welfare (Rakodi, 2002). One of the main factors that influences the livelihood is asset. There several kind of assets such as physical, natural, human, social and financial asset. All of them are influencing each other and affect the ability of household to managing their living. Physical asset identified as the availability of basic infrastructures such as housing, tools to access water etc which important for people to make their living. Housing that categorized as physical assets play an important role that influencing other assets such as human and financial assets.

Human asset which known as the availability of labour resources within households divided into quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Quantitative dimension is more about the number of people. Meanwhile qualitative is about the education levels, skills, and health status of each person in a household (Rakodi, 2002). Housing influences the human asset in a significant way. For example in the case of forced eviction in Abuja, Nigeria, people who affected the forced eviction gave their testimonials and expressed their feeling after the forced eviction happened. They lost their houses as the asset. They feel shocked and depressed because they did not have house anymore and have to live in the street. One of the interviewees known have to sleep in the street for days, and got sick physically and mentally. And after several days tried to survive, he died. That is a concrete example about how house as physical asset influences human asset which is household’s health both physically and mentally.

Financial asset identified as resources related to the availability of money which make the households have financial options such as credit, pensions, savings, and remittances (Rakodi, 2002). Financial asset also influenced by the physical asset. For example for people who work in home or home-based workers. According to Chen & Sinha (2016, p. 346), “For home-based workers, whose home is also their workplace, housing is an essential productive asset”. For example in case of Ahmedabad, Pakistan, where a group of waste plastic recyclers who work at home have to be relocated to a new site because their existing place should be functioning as floodplain to control flooding in the future. They would lost their work which resulted on the inability to pay the bills and have to reducing the expenditures. One group that had been relocated to the new site said that even the government gave them a new house, they still can not find a new job and it was hard for them to survive in the new site. They start to borrowing money from each other. That case shows the real example about how house become a place for generating income which related to financial asset.

After all, self-help approach and livelihood theory are linked in a complementary way. The application of self-help enriches the livelihood assets for the people. By designing and managing their houses, the users will have skills like the ability to design, construct, build and manage their own house based on their own needs that related to their human asset. They also know their needs about the size, the number of rooms so their house will be efficient for them to live. This condition might not be found if people just directly buy the houses from public or private company. Related to the financial asset, people will build their houses based on their own financial condition. They will have the opportunity to manage their own money to build without sacrificing their other needs. Usually people will have tendency to build the house near the workplace, so the self-help approach will help them increase their income. To the social asset, self-help approach also will give the beneficial influences such as, the sense of belonging to the community surrounding the house because they build it by themselves and often get help from the neighbours. People also have tendency to build their house near their relatives, so it will strengthen the relations due to the proximity to each other. Related to nature asset, people who use the self-help approach have the opportunity to build their house near the natural resources so they can improve their life with easy access to natural resources such as water and land. This natural resources also can help people bettering their financial asset by using them as opportunity to work.

The explanation about conectivity between self-help housing concept and livelihood assets is a picture about how housing system works in Indonesia today. According to Johan Silas in his book “Perumahan Dalam Jejak Paradoks” (2016), housing system in Indonesia preceived as a plane that devided into 2 classes, business and economy class.  70% of the plane passengers are from economy class, yet they are the ones who make the plane operated, not the rest 30%. This analogy is perfectly describes the housing system in Indonesia where almost 70% of houses in Indonesia are informal, and the rest 30% are provided by formal system. This shows how self-help housing is the first option for Indonesian to build their houses. People who can not afford housing from formal sector, eventually would build their own houses by adjusting their assets such financial asset,  physical asset, natural asset, human asset and social asset.

In conclusion, self-help approach which is limiting government intervention and let the house-user build and manage their own houses is complementarily linked to the livelihood theory which highlight the 5 kind of assets. Self-help approach strengthen people’s asset and give them opportunity to manage their life based on what they need. However, some kind of  the government’s roles should be considered such as provide basic services and giving land protection to support what the people can not provide by themselves.


  • Chen, M.A., & Sinha, S. (2016). Home-based workers and citiea. Environment and Urbanization, 28(2), 343-358.
  • Harris, R. (2003). A double irony: the originality and influence of John. F.C. Turner. Habitat International, 27, 245-269.
  • Jenkins, P., Smith, H ad Wang, Y. (eds). (2007). Planning and Housing in Rapidly Urbanising World. Routledge, London and New York. (Chapter 7: Housing in the period 1960-90, pp.153-177).
  • Nientied, P. And van der Linden, J. (1988). Approaches to low income housing in the Third World. Chapter 9 (138-156) in Gugler, J. (ed.). The Urbanisation of the Third World. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Rakodi, C. (2002). A livelihoods approach-conceptual issues and definitions. Urban livelihoods: A people-centred approach to reducing poverty, 3-22.
  • Turner, J. (1972). Chapter 7: Housing as a Verb (pp148-175) in Turner,J. & Fichter, R., (eds) 1972. Freedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process. Macmillan, New York.
  • Silas, J. (2016). Perumahan Dalam Jejak Paradoks. Laboratorium Perumahan dan Permukiman Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember, Surabaya.