Climate control - Sustainable design influenced this home

Sustainable design influenced this home

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This home was designed with environmental principals in mind by John Bulcock of Design Unit Sdn Bhd. Here is an exterior view of the home.

Going green doesn't mean you have to compromise good design. On the contrary, the desire to follow sustainable design principles often leads to innovative solutions that work on both a functional and an aesthetic level.

In designing this new house in Kuala Lumpur, architect John Bulcock of Design Unit followed the sustainability principles that have determined much of the firm's work in recent years.

"The owners of the house were open to the idea of taking an environmental approach to the design," he says. "Passive design is already commonplace, such as orienting a building for shading and providing large overhangs. But we wanted the house to play a more active role in reducing the need for air conditioning."

Bulcock says in a tropical climate air conditioning is always considered essential, but by cutting heat gain to the building and providing natural ventilation, it is possible to minimise its use.

The solution for this house involved timber screens and a solar chimney a venting atrium made possible by the three-level design, which in turn was a response to the small site and the need for many rooms.

"The owners wanted a lot of accommodation, but it was important not to make the house seem too massive," Bulcock says. "I wanted to keep it intimate. The atrium allows a visual connection between all the floors.

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This home was designed with environmental principals in mind by John Bulcock of Design Unit Sdn Bhd. Here is a view of a staircase.

"Just as importantly, it provides a very simple stack-effect ventilation. Hot air rises in the tall, narrow space and is heated even more when it reaches a glass ceiling. It is then naturally exhausted at the top of the atrium by natural convection. As the hot air exhausts, more air is pulled in through the open windows and doors creating permanent air movement, which helps to cool the interior."

Bamboo screens on the house exterior are another sustainable feature this highly renewable and inexpensive timber grows in abundance in Malaysia. Essentially the bamboo is a sunscreen, but it also provides privacy, says the architect. The screens are on several balconies, but in other areas there is glazing directly behind the screen.

Other materials include concrete panels that were cast in situ and treated with a water repellent. Formwork marks and clamp holes were left exposed.

"The concrete has a raw unfinished quality," says Bulcock. "I wanted the spaces to speak for themselves, so that people could see how the house is constructed."

The concrete also provides a low-maintenance exterior in a climate exposed to extremes of sunlight and rain.

Light shelves along the top of each level are another feature of the exterior. Recessed windows above the large concrete overhangs bring diffused natural light inside the house, even when sunscreens are closed. This means less artificial lighting is required.

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This home was designed with environmental principals in mind by John Bulcock of Design Unit Sdn Bhd. Here is a view of a pool, two blue seats, wooden decking and furniture can be seen through the sliding doors.

"The shelves are also an architectural device that makes the floors appear to float over each other," says Bulcock. "The shelves break up the facade so it doesn't look so massive."

Other sustainable design elements include a heavily insulated roof, fixed louvre overhangs, extensive planting and koi ponds. Hard landscaping is kept to a minimum to prevent heat absorption and radiation.

Although the interior has an open layout, flexibility is provided. Doors concealed in the walls can be pulled across to separate and seal the main living room, if air conditioning is required in this room.

A large sliding timber screen provides a visual divide for the children's lounge. This room features colourful coving incorporating shelves and seating. Colour also features in the atrium, where a single purple wall introduces an element of drama.

Credit list

Interior designer
PDI Design & Associates
Window and door joinery
Custom and Xtra Furniture
Kitchen cabinets
Gloss lacquer
Stainless steel
Kitchen designer
Signature Kitchen
Kitchen manufacturer
Alno and Signature Kitchen
Tachikawa; Pleats & Pleats
Java Timber Flooring
Custom, by Vluz and
Audiovisual system
PDi from
Home automation
Clipsal C-Bus
Korean Top
Fisher & Paykel

Story by: Colleen Hawkes

Photography by: Lin Ho

07 Feb, 2012

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