Cover House 68 by Design Collective Architects, Photo: Creative Clicks

With Earth Day coming up, we celebrate five Malaysian homes that aren't just gorgeous, their green credentials look pretty good too

Designing a home these days should go beyond ensuring that it matches your lifestyle or aesthetic. Whether it's active initiatives or passive green design, having sustainability built into a home will help reduce energy use and utilise resources and materials efficiently. Yet eco-conscious design does not need to be at the expense of beautifully realised homes, as these five gorgeous homes demonstrate.

 

1. A site-specific home in Kuala Lumpur

Designed by Domaine Architects, the Penchala Residence was located on a slopey site with a significant level difference of over 9m from the highest to the lowest end. The challenges of its unusual shape were mitigated by its enviable location next to the Taman Tun Dr Ismail forest reserve.

The architect's sustainable approach began at this stage with the shape and arrangement of spaces being informed by the site and to minimise interference to it.

 

Passive design solutions were incorporated throughout the house, from the generously proportioned windows to the strategically planned openings which fill the interior spaces with an abundance of natural light. For comfort and privacy, a white perforated metal screen that looks like a woven patterned fabric was designed on the east-facing facade to filter light and views into the house.

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2. An updated kampung house In Ipoh

Within a gated community inside a golf course in Ipoh, Australian firm Marra + Yeh designed a house that reinterprets the traditional Malay house built primarily of local materials with non-traditional construction methods.

Sustainable design is fully embedded into Marra + Yeh’s process which is approached by creating high-performance buildings with quantifiable eco-conscious aspects and making buildings that bring their occupants closer to nature.

The building is oriented along the east-west axis to minimise sun penetration. Large overhangs shade the long sides of the building as the sun moves from north to south during the year. A large deck was created on the north side which creates a low-pressure zone that helps to draw ventilation through the building so that the principal living, dining and kitchen spaces do not require air-conditioning.

The house produces almost three times more energy than it uses and sells the excess back to the grid while landscaping is watered by collected rainwater. The majority of materials were locally sourced for low embodied energy, including clay bricks and aerated concrete blocks, several species of hardwoods, steel and marble.

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3. An award-winning Janda Baik retreat

Located on the highest point of Tanarimba, Twinkle Villa won CY Chan Architect the best building and a gold award at the Persatuan Arkitek Malaysia Awards in 2017. The client's main request was to keep the site as intact as possible and this inspired the architect to design a house that would blend with nature without chasing the resident bees out. 

The house is built on the flattest land within the site boundary to avoid cutting too much of the earth and felling big trees. In fact, of the 115 found on the property, only two were sacrificed for the building’s final setting-out, which determined the building's final elongated rectangular shape.

Apart from preserving the natural environment surrounding the house, passive design strategies were implemented. This includes having an open plan concept from the entrance to the living space to maximise cross ventilation and isolating the circulation space to the fair-faced concrete facade.

The concrete wall also acts as a thermal mass to absorb, store, and later release heat. All spaces benefit from being double-shaded (man-made concrete roof and natural tree shade) which effectively creates a very low solar transmission to the internal spaces while the balcony spaces also function as shading devices for privacy as well as reducing sunlight penetration.

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4. A Multi-Generational Family Home In Miri, Sarawak

A pair of siblings were gifted 1.5 acres of land in Miri by their father adjacent to his home. The grand idea was to build their own houses to form a large compound. For this task, they looked to award-winning Kuching-based firm DNA

Principles of tropical design and green sustainability drove the conception of the houses which were designed in unison as a complementary pair. To this end, the houses prioritise open spaces and have seven courtyards in total, all of which allow the outdoors to integrate with the interior while providing visual focus. The houses' layouts were also designed to promote good cross ventilation.

 

Lighting was an essential component in the design of the houses and both houses use a lot of secondary aluminium screens as a means to filter and articulate sunlight into the interior and to reduce heat build-up. As a result, the interiors are well lit with direct and ambient lighting, with a beguiling interplay of shadows and light throughout the day.

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5. A home with multiple pavilions in Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Design Collective Architects (DCA) together with its associate design practice Essential Design Integrated (EDI) created a home, dubbed House 68, comprising modern pavilions connected by large open terraces and water gardens which recently won several local and international awards.

Located within a gated community in Selangor on a sprawling 3,488 sqm site, the architects set out to design a home that coexists and integrates itself within a lush garden. The result is a series of pavilions that blur the edges between inside and out where occupants can be within the home and sitting in the garden all at the same time.

These pavilions have large door panels that fold away to allow for free-flowing cross ventilation. Oversized deep verandas and roof overhangs provide shade from the afternoon sun and the use of timber screens on the western façade provide filtered light into the living spaces.

Insulated cavity walls and roofing systems keep out the heat and retain the coolness of the interiors while uPVC window systems reduce heat transmission through its frames. The glorious water gardens and landscaped courtyards provide shade and lower the ambient temperature around the house. 

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