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Housing Solutions in Asia Pacific

Interview with an Eco-Housing Expert: Jason Pomeroy (Part 2 of 2)

Mar 05, 2015

In part two of our interview with Professor Jason Pomeroy, Panasonic speaks to the eco-architect, master planner and academic about the green-building landscape in Southeast Asia. We also took a look at some of the stunning green projects Prof. Pomeroy and his team at Pomeroy Studio have worked on in the region.

5. What makes a green/zero-energy building?

JP: At the most basic level, a green building will pay particular respect to the natural environment, harnessing the sun, wind and rain to reduce energy consumption - thus lowering costs for the user, preserving the environment and reducing the need for natural resources. One of my earlier projects was the Idea House in Malaysia, Asia's first carbon-neutral prototype home. The design maximised natural ventilation and light, and was expandable to accommodate a family of between three and five people. The Idea House added technology sparingly to further improve not only its energy performance, but also its energy generation.

6. Some people think green buildings are prohibitively expensive to build. What can be done to change their perception or raise awareness?

JP: I think that this perception, while it still exists, is slowly beginning to change. There used to be a belief that only the most luxurious properties and condominiums could incorporate green energy, due to the high levels of maintenance and cost of technology. However, in reality, creating buildings along sustainable lines is not necessarily more expensive than a 'traditional' property of the same size and type. Significant energy savings can be made by simply knowing which way to orientate the building, or using plant species that are able to thrive in this particular climatic zone.

One perfect example of this is Pomeroy Studio's B House. It is the first carbon-negative residence in Singapore yet comes at the same cost as an average detached home in the same area (the B House is due for completion Q4 2015). When people start to see physical proof that you can create a carbon-negative property at no additional cost, it will create its own awareness and mindsets will start to shift further.

Additionally, while building costs can remain competitive, significant savings can also be made in the long run thanks to lower energy use and therefore lower maintenance costs. By incorporating sustainable features, including greenery, skycourts and skygardens, you enhance the value of the property itself - sometimes by up to 10 per cent. Developers throughout the region are beginning to realise this, which bodes well for the development of eco-architecture in the region.

7. Is there a green development you particularly admire in the region?

JP: While not strictly a 'green development' per se, one building that I do admire is the recently restored Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Technology and urbanisation tend to destroy cultural heritage, yet this hotel, a restored, formerly decaying colonial structure, serves as a reminder that history and tradition can and should be preserved. The old colonial building displays many of the passive design elements that serve to maximise natural ventilation and light - after all, it was built well before the onset of air-conditioning units - yet technology and modern amenities have been subtly weaved into the design.

Another example of a culturally and environmentally sensitive project is a mixed-use community designed by my studio in Penang, Malaysia. Called 'Jahabah', it is a mixed-use development that is sensitive to Islamic sensibilities.

The development included low and medium-cost housing, a retail bazaar, a hotel and a religious school/community centre. We reinterpreted the traditional Malay serambi (terraces) to create outdoor social spaces, and incorporated passive design techniques that maximised natural light and ventilation, thus lowering energy usage. Furthermore, we sought inspiration from the Middle East in the form of the Islamic four-fold gardens, or chahar bagh, to create vertical Islamic gardens that promote outdoor living as well as serve an aid for temperature reduction.

8. In your opinion, which cities are doing best in terms of having a conducive environment (cultural, social, legislative) for the development of eco-architecture? What lessons do these cities offer?

JP: I think Singapore stands out as one of the most progressive cities when it comes to eco-architecture. The city-state has worked around its limited land space and has taken bold steps to offset the loss of green space within its urban habitat through the creation of skycourts, skygardens and other urban greenery within its public and private buildings.

The city is also beginning to realise the role eco-architecture can play in creating urban areas that are both sensitive to the environment yet conducive to human existence, resulting in more pleasant places to live and happier, more productive citizens. I'm delighted to see much of my research and design philosophy, captured in my book The Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat, coming to fruition in this small island city-state.

About Prof. Jason Pomeroy

Prof. Jason Pomeroy is an award-winning British registered architect, master planner and academic at the forefront of the sustainable built environment agenda. He graduated with distinction from the Canterbury School of Architecture and Cambridge University, and is the founding principal of Pomeroy Studio.

In addition to leading Pomeroy Studio, he is the author of Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat (2014) and Idea House: Future Tropical Living Today (2011), and is a special professor at the University of Nottingham and the Universita IUAV di Venezia. He sits on the editorial board of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and is an active member of the Singapore Green Building Council. Jason is also the host of City Time Traveller, an award-winning architecture travel series on Channel NewsAsia, and is a featured speaker on TEDx Singapore.

For more information, please visit www.pomeroystudio.sg.

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