Reflection and discussion
The projects outlined in this chapter responded to various environmental issues by adopting diverse remedial and transformative approaches. Although the main goal of these projects was based on resolving environmental concerns, the design solutions ended up enhancing the social dynamics and quality of life of their inhabitants. The projects varied greatly in size and function: from low-rise housing projects to high-rise residential buildings, in addition to schools and hotels. Despite the particular terms that are used to describe these projects, they can also be clearly classified based on the design solutions used; for instance, the complexity of the design, the facade treatment, the use of materials, and the project’s impact on the natural surroundings.
One example of an effective design solution is the innovative and functional design of the Moulmein Rise Residential Tower, which was based on the traditional longhouses of Borneo. The tower adopts the typical ventilation practice of drawing air from below into the living spaces above. A projecting bay window with a sliding ledge creates a contemporary monsoon window; the ledge can be opened from below to allow breezes in but keep the rain out (Summ et ah, 2012). This design demonstrates the potential of the monsoon window as an effective passive cooling device in a contemporary urban setting; it efficiently achieves thermal comfort within tropical living with no energy consumption (Yeang, 2007).
Another effective design solution is appropriate facade treatment. Like Moulmein Rise Tower, the House of 40 Knots uses facade treatment. However, Moulmein Rise Tower uses sliding aluminium panels while the House of 40 Knots utilises woven brick screens as curtain walls that respond to the shifting path of the sun. The brickwork masons, who were carefully trained by the architect, skilfully made the curtain walls an important part of the structure rather than just a veneer detached from the main facade (Radoine, 2016). The uniqueness of this building is considered to be its contemporary facade, which appears as a collection of complexly interwoven modules (Mostafavi, 2016).
An important design consideration is a project’s impact on the environment. Apartment No. 1 in Mahallat, Iran, promotes environmental sustainability by focusing on the use of local and recycled materials. Recycled stones collected from local factories accounted for about 30% of the material used in the building. Other local materials, such as the saturated wood in the shutters, were also used; in addition, cement, steel, gypsum, tiles, and bricks were all locally produced (Radoine, 2016). By recycling discarded stones from local plants, the project design plays a significant role in preserving precious natural resources while also reducing its cost. The simple technique of compiling discarded stones impacted greatly on the local builders’ community, not only by raising their awareness of environmental issues but also by providing them with simple recycling solutions that can be utilised in future construction practices (Mehdizadeh, 2013).
In contrast to these high-rise residential projects, Palmyra House in India is a double-storey weekend retreat house comprised of two louvred masses with a central pool. The louvres on the block elevations were made from the trunks of the local palmyra palm. In addition to the adjustable louvre doors, the minimal enclosure of the house facilitates the creation of an attractive, eco-friendly space-nature syntax. This design also leads to high- quality indoor air and less energy consumption. Coconut palm trees, found in abundance in the region, are used as canopy to provide year-round shade, while the louvres allow airflow to pass freely throughout the structure; this allows seaside breezes to cool the house passively and efficiently. Additionally, when installing wind and solar panels, the location and orientation of the house were taken into consideration to ensure the cooling effect of ocean breezes and ample sunlight.
Another environmentally friendly project, the Post-Tsunami Housing in Sri Lanka consists of single-storey structures, aimed at facilitating the return of sixty-seven families who had been displaced by the December 2004 tsunami. In order to meet the project objectives, which included minimal cost and a limited time frame, the functional design solution included locally produced materials and simple construction techniques (Ban, 2010). Each house was designed with walls made from compressed earth blocks and a pitched roof made from locally sourced teak and coconut wood.
The projects discussed in this chapter also include two schools, both of which utilised very simple yet innovative designs: Makoko Floating School in Nigeria and the Green School in Bali. Makoko Floating School required the expansion of the facilities of the only school in Makoko while making the school a focal point of community pride. The exposed part of the structure consists of a floating raft with a robust skeleton of eco-friendly wood and bamboo poles. The electric system involves a series of PV solar panels installed on the roof; these power a line of batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter (Berlanda, 2016). Similarly, the design of the Green School in Bali adopted the use of bamboo as a practical alternative to rainforest timber. The design of the school expressed the sustainable design philosophy of the designers, who were also environmentalists; they wanted the school to not only be a place to educate young students but also to inspire them. By fully relying on natural and recycled materials and utilising effective environmental management systems, the school is an environmentally friendly and sustainable structure powered by bamboo sawdust for the hot water and cooking systems, a hydro-powered vortex generator, and solar panels (Shim, 2010).
The design concept of the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa was also inspired by nature. The building embraces the semi-arid scenery of the sandstone outcrops dotted with huge baobab and mopane trees in the surrounding hilly savannah (Mostafavi, 2016). The structure is somewhat complex: the building comprises a series of vaulted forms made of several layers of thin earth tiles and a final covering layer of local stone. The design concept and the selection of materials created not only a sustainable structure authentically rooted in its place, but also an energy-efficient building in terms of controlling heat transfer towards the interior. The construction process was environmentally sustainable; it reduced machinery use by adopting a labour-intensive construction method and used local earth bricks, which reduced energy consumption (Ramage et al., 2010).
The principles of sustainability were also an important aspect of the design of the Datai Hotel in Malaysia during its construction, which not only relied on local building materials, but also adopted traditional construction techniques to minimise energy consumption. As the hotel is located in a virgin tropical rainforest, the architect wanted to create an innovative design that incorporated the natural landscape while at the same time being minimally invasive and retaining as much of the jungle as possible. The result is several freestanding buildings inspired by the kampong, a traditional Malay clustered village form (Baker, 2001). Instead of creating a massive and intrusive complex, the modular guest rooms and villas blend easily into the fragile environment; these are linked by open walkways designed to reduce the hotel’s impact on the site and limit the cutting down of trees. In the case of the Kantana Film and Animation Institute, located in a rural area of open grasslands, the design concept aimed at connecting the building with its natural environment. The design solution integrated modern materials such as concrete and steel with Thailand’s traditional brick. The structure of the building, enclosed within rippling brick walls, contains two intersected open-air walkways; these were designed to blend architecture with nature. By planting 10- to 20-meter-high peep trees, the architect replaced much more than the amount of greenery that was removed by the building’s footprint. The forest-like environment not only provides good ventilation and natural shade, but also provides students with calm spaces for reflective meditation.
In contrast, Ceuta Public Library is located in an urban centre. The design concept of the library aimed at incorporating the new building with archaeological remains of Marinid Ceuta, which had been excavated during the
1990s. The concept was unique in that it incorporated the 14th-century Mirinid remains as an integral part of the new building; in this way, the library not only preserved the archaeological site but also enhanced its remarkable historic context (Rashidi, 2016).
The design of the Menara Mesiniaga/IBM Headquarters is quite different from these projects since it employs a sustainable strategy known as the bio- climatic approach. The architect’s design concept was based on creating a low-energy, high-quality tall building that would express the prominence of IBM products and simultaneously act as an iconic structure for the corporate office (Safamanesh, 1995). Unlike the aforementioned structures that chiefly rely on natural and recycled materials, the IBM Headquarters uses reinforced concrete. However, the uniqueness of the building rests on interesting ecological design concepts, such as the two spirals of green sky gardens, the recessed/ shaded windows on the east and west sides, and the glazed curtain walls on the north and south sides, all of which demonstrate the extensive use of natural light, ventilation, and greenery within the interior volume (Yeang, 1992).
In Saudi Arabia, Wadi Hanifa’s ecological strategy uniquely integrated a wide range of architectural interventions, from master planning to landscaping. The Wadi Hanifa had once been a seasonal flood channel that had become a dumping area for construction waste and debris. The project aimed at sustaining and protecting the local environment; this approach is technically called land building or land inhabiting, which in Arabic refers to as Emaratul-Ard, meaning constructing an architectural project and landscaping it for the service of its inhabitants. The project involved removing almost 1.25 million cubic metres of construction waste and replacing it with an impressive bio-remediation facility that incorporates a series of weirs, pools, aerating pumps, bio-remediation cells, benthic substrates, and riparian planting. As a result, the project not only improves the environmental quality of the wadi but also enhances its public use and environmental awareness of its importance (Mostafavi, 2011a).
Collectively, these examples espoused various approaches in response to environmental challenges. These adopted and adapted strategies, including using renewable sources, reducing pollution, utilising natural and recycled materials, and incorporating natural ventilation and light. Additionally, some projects contextually strove to achieve community involvement as part of socio-cultural responsibility towards environmental sustainability. Notwithstanding the scale and type, the design concepts of all these projects stemmed from a need to provide innovative design solutions that were responsive to users and responsible to the environment.