By 2050, it is predicted that half of the world’s carbon emissions will be from developing countries (in particular, India, China and South East Asian countries). Modernization may come at the expense of society and the environment, as the ill-gotten mistakes of an industrialized West pre-Brundtland fail to deter the developing nation’s quest for economic prosperity. However, a combination of governmental and private sector commitment to combating climate change has found expression in green building legislation and the establishment of green assessment methods tailored to the tropical climate and regional social economics.
However, whilst examples of environmentally responsive, sustainable built environments in South East Asia exist, the issue of measuring embodied and operating carbon quantity within building development, (i.e. to objectively asses environmental impact), is an area that appears to have been explored to a lesser extent, let alone to the point of carbon neutrality within a particular building typology. Whilst one can be seduced in thinking that the environment is the major component to the green agenda, the balancing of social and economic issues is equally important.
It is with the need for more culturally sensitive and quantifiable ‘green’ assertions in South East Asian design that the Idea House has been created. The Idea House is a prototypical dwelling that provides an insight into the future tropical living, and is the brainchild of Sime Darby Property (Malaysia’s largest land owner and leading property developer). Conceived as a test bed for new ideas, the house showcases the latest in sustainable architecture and is the first carbon zero residence in South East Asia.
The book is a chronological journey in the creation of the first carbon zero house in SE Asia. Chapter One, entitled “Team,” gives due consideration to the particular effect the sustainability agenda had on both the client and architect in the creation of a ground breaking green residential prototype. It goes further to define the brief and how it was born out of an interdisciplinary collaboration amongst a broader consortium of built environment professionals. The role of the architect, as a conduit to these different built environment professionals, is explored in order to highlight the increasing importance of a style of project leadership that embraces a broader interdisciplinary understanding of the pertinent issues facing the design team stakeholders. This similarly allows for an exploration of the process of design, and in particular the role of the interdisciplinary workshop in its ability to optimize project efficiency and minimize waste.
The importance of being able to demonstrate the prototype’s sustainable credentials permits a brief overview of some of the global assessment methods that can act as prompts for thinking during the design process as well as being credible green marketing tools. It also covers the reasons behind why particular assessment methods were chosen. It is balanced by an overview of why more quantitative measuring criteria (Le., carbon foot printing) are needed in order to further calculate and demonstrate a development’s environmental impact through more objective means. The importance of understanding the social and spatial intricacies of the residential typology through similarly objective means is also explored.
As chapter one considers the vision and the process from which the design was created, chapter two, entitled “Idea,” looks at how the various constraints and opportunities were transcribed into solutions and consolidated into a singular design concept. Site planning, Water efficiency, Energy efficiency, Indoor environmental quality, Green Innovation, Management of Materials and Resources and the Design, Construction and Occupancy Management of the development are the broad themes that not only summarize the more pressing issues that beset sustainable development globally but also form the basis of revealing the design concept. From a concept on paper to a building in the landscape, chapter three entitled “House,” documents the physical realization of the Idea House from construction through to completion. It goes further to analyze the buildings environmental and social performance through post occupancy quantitative and qualitative tests respectively.
The final chapter, entitled “Community,” has two undertakings. In the first, it embraces the spirit of sustainable knowledge transference from one project to another by applying the lessons learned in the Idea House design process to a commercial project. In the second, and by virtue of the first, it demonstrates how the social, economic and environmental design essence of the Idea House can be applied to the terraced or semi-detached typology, and thus be true to its original intention of being a prototype house driven through research, development and innovation, for onward commercial application in the residential marketplace.