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Theory and Research for Design
How long have you been disconnected from nature? What is the last time you walk within trees, barefoot outside with your feet touching the grass, get the vitamin D from the real sunshine instead of taking capsules? These days, uncontrolled urbanization and the loss of green space has become the main causes of global warming especially climate change. Through this, our attitudes toward nature are currently being transformed through the recognition of nature’s agency and its ability to resist the anthropogenic. The rising temperature has seriously affected our life which has led us to start to question our relation to nature. In addition, architectures design is required to be green and sustainable with maximum efficiency in resources use and minimal effect on human health and natural environment. To put it simply, protecting the environment while maintaining human comfort. This paper will have a deep analysis of the relationship between human and nature and design strategies on achieving sustainability and thermal comfort in Tropicana rainforest climate base on the Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed.
Sek San Ng, a landscape architect whose collective works highlight the coexist of the hard architecture world and the pliable landscape world. Sekeping Serendah Retreat is one of his notable work which situated in a forest with a hot and humid climate in Selangor, Malaysia. It is designed for relaxation with basic, lavish design and blending in seamlessly with the beauty of the surrounding natural environment. Due to its geographical advantages (one hour away from Kuala Lumpur), it is very popular for people who live in the big city as a getaway from the hectic life and staying in a simple shelter for interacting with nature. Sekeping Serendah provides various type of shelter, but the focus of the research text is going to centre on the glass shed which has a strong relationship with nature and culture.
Human + Nature
Man has been in relation to his surroundings since ancient times. They have always depended on their surroundings for survival. All these years of consuming natural resources with give nothing back in return. Coupled with the population explosion, it has doubled the consumption of the natural world, resulting in the imbalance between humans and the natural environment. However, it brings the same suffering to mankind in return – Global Warming. Accelerating sea level rise, increasing temperatures that cause heat waves, wildfire, flooding, human health impacts and many others are nature’s revenge on the man. Fortunately, in decades, people began to realize the importance of nature through the issue of global warming and be responsible for it. They took different measures but the most dramatic change you can see visually is reconnecting people with the natural environment through architecture design.
Today, there is a new trend to connect humans and nature to slow down global warming which is called Biophilia design. “Biophilia design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn”. It is an extension of natural life, incorporating natural materials, light, plants, and other natural world experiences in contemporary architectural surroundings. It is not only the idea of bringing the outside in but more creating a strong relationship between many aspects of nature and our living space. There is a brunch of ways to design biophilia environments such as create a living green wall, visual connections with nature, natural materials and light. For example, as Figure 1 shows that the use of glass material on Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed allows the exterior natural view completely to be seen when you are in the interior space. Besides, we can see the brilliant design of living wall partition and the big windows in the McCann Erickson’s workspace (Figure 2) provide workers with a green and full of natural light environment. Both present the idea of reconnecting human with nature but in a different way.
Figure 2: Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed
Figure 2: McCann Erickson’s workspace
Reviewing back to Figure 1, imagine that you are in the Glass Shed, you probably would wonder whether you are in indoors or outdoors. The interior is no longer only represented by four walls but different possibilities. This led us to rethink the definition of the interior in a new way. The technique of blurring the interior and exterior in Glass Shed aims at being closer with nature. “It doesn’t matter if it is inside or outside, it is continuous” state by Tyler Jones, an architect based in America. Takaharu Tezuka, an architect based in Tokyo, designed a ring shape kindergarten (Figure 3.) as a continuous space for freed learning and playing instead of imposing physical boundaries on the children. The advantage of architectural shape design and fully unfolded sliding door allow the surrounding nature, sunlight and shading accessing the classroom. It’s a great way for kids to learn, rather than stay a whole day in a four-walled classroom.
Figure 3: Fiji Kindergarten, Tokyo
Furthermore, nature has good impacts on human well-being. Assessing natural area helps in stress reduction and attention restoration. That’s why biophilia design is now a trend design for business. It promotes employee performance and keeps people in a calm environment by adding plants into our workspace, living areas. Likewise, Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed which is surrounded by nature allows visitors to leave their worries at work or life and just enjoy being embraced by nature. This emphasizes the inextricable relationship between human and nature.
Design Strategies on achieving sustainability and thermal comfort in Tropicana rainforest climate base on Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed.
The main function of a building is to provide protection from the stresses imposed by the climate. Thermal comfort is the sensation of an individual in a specific environment. It is difficult to define thermal comfort. It will vary from every single person and there are a lot of factors can affect it. Besides, Malaysia is situated at the equatorial and tropical belt that belongs to the Tropicana rainforest climate area which has only one season, summer. The typical average climate temperature is 28-degree Celsius. In this kind of hot and high humidity area, ventilation is pivotal to achieve thermal comfort.
Global warming is bad for countries in tropical rainforest climates, therefore, ventilation design is important in Malaysia, but it is only a palliative. Building design and its components can create multiple natural air ventilation styles to ventilate the space based on each building’s architectural synthesis. Cross ventilation and stack ventilation are the main variables of ventilation in Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed. Both ventilations allows fresh air to be supplied to buildings and supports the healthy breathing of the residents of the building. It also supplies oxygen and eliminates pollutants from the air, thus promoting good indoor air quality.
Figure 5: Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed
Figure 4: Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed
There is a lot of design strategy of ventilation that uses on the Glass Shed for achieving thermal comfort in Tropicana climate. In order to tread the land lightly, the shed is raised by stilts as Figure 4 shown which has the function to improve the airflow movement and retardant from direct heat from the ground. It also emphasizes the verticality and the idea of integrating with the surrounding nature. Moreover, the interior openness layout and the fenestration allow maximum natural light and air get into the interior through the cross ventilation (Figure 5). The interior space without obstruction and the use of casement windows let the space to be open and brighter. Besides, the gap between roof and ceiling are shown in Figure 4 act as an outlet to discharge hot air during stack ventilation. Furthermore, trees around the glass shed also be an important role in reducing the surrounding temperature. It cools the air by blocking sunlight and creating shade thus minimizing the landscape heat load.
“One of the enduring strengths of traditional structures is their intimate relationship with their environment” claimed by Allen G Noble. Malaysia has a hot and humid climate all year around. Therefore, the configuration of traditional houses has often been the outcome of many decades of observing the natural climate rhythms and differences and the awareness of how they could gain from their advantages and strategies to resolve their disadvantages with the limited resources around them. Its architectural structure and features are very considerate of the local geographical environment which includes how to achieve maximize ventilation and minimize heat absorption. Nevertheless, similar adaption design on Malay traditional house can be found in glass shed such as raise stilts, roof joint gap, open space design and others as Figure 6 drawing shown.
Figure 6: A section view of Malay traditional house design
In terms of materiality, Glass Shed use both traditional and modern materials types. Modern materials like glass and steel are integrated into the design to ensure structural stability where it is more sustainable, lightweight and has a low thermal capacity. By implementing the iconic glass material into the design as both windows and doors, it allows a full view of the forest which fully exemplifies the natural environment. This creates the chance for visitor being closer to nature. Another function of glass materials is the reflection. The shade of surround trees has been reflected on the glass which creates an illusion of invisible architecture (Figure 4). Besides, it is worth notable that in order to achieve open space, most of the furniture is made from wire mesh structure (Figure 7). It satisfies the function of sitting and aid in ventilation. On the other hand, timber as low thermal capacity material is applied as part of the floor which makes a positive contribution to the cooling effect. (Figure 8) The gap between the timber floor also helps in stack ventilation as let the air pass through.
Figure 8: timber floor use in Glass Shed
Figure 7: wire mesh chair in Glass House
In conclusion, Sekeping Serendah Glass Shed plays its role here as an accelerator between human and the nature to improve their relationship through being one with nature. Moreover, Glass Shed is the contemporary adaption of the Malay vernacular architecture which accentuates on the natural environment taking the weather and climate into consideration to achieve good thermal comfort in the building. It also extemporises the design element of the Malay traditional house to consolidate the functionality of the building. This approach introduces a new alternative to discovering the description of thermal comfort conditions for an eco-friendlier design that matches not only Malaysia but some other tropical countries with similar surroundings.
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- “Sekeping Serendah Retreat, Malaysia”. Sekeping.Com, 2012. https://www.sekeping.com/serendah/home.html
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 “Sekeping Serendah Retreat, Malaysia”. Sekeping.Com, 2012. https://www.sekeping.com/serendah/home.html
 Zhang, Lin Lin. 2014. “The Environmental View of Thoreau’s Walden: The Interpretation of the Relationship between Human and Nature.” Applied Mechanics and Materials 675-677: 1048-1051.
 Kellert, Stephen R., Finnegan, Bill, Miller, Florence, and Bullfrog Films. 2012. Publisher. Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life. Widescreen. ed. Oley, PA: Bullfrog Films.
 “The Unger Residence – Blurring The Lines Between Indoors And Outdoors”. 2017. Best In American Living. https://bestinamericanliving.com/2016/09/the-unger-residence-blurring-the-lines-between-indoors-and-outdoors/.
 “Kids And The City: How Do You Build The Perfect Space For Children?”. 2016. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/dec/20/how-build-perfect-city-children-kindergarten-architect.
 Bratman, G., Hamilton, J. and Daily, G. 2012. ‘The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health’. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, [online] 1249(1), pp.118-136.
 Raish, Julia. “Thermal Comfort: Designing For People”. Soa.Utexas.Edu. Accessed May 28. https://soa.utexas.edu/sites/default/disk/urban_ecosystems/urban_ecosystems/09_03_fa_ferguson_raish_ml.pdf.
 Stavridou, Anastasia D. 2015. “Breathing Architecture: Conceptual Architectural Design Based On The Investigation Into The Natural Ventilation Of Buildings”. Frontiers Of Architectural Research 4 (2): 127-145
 Safikhani, Abdullah, Ossen, and Baharvand.2014. ‘A Review of Energy Characteristic of Vertical Greenery Systems’. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 40: 450-62.
 Noble, Allen. 2013. Vernacular Buildings A Global Survey. London: I.B.Tauris.
 Hanafi, Zulkifli. 1994.“Housing Design in Relation to Environmental Comfort — a Comparison of the Traditional Malay House and Modern Housing.” Building Research & Information 22, no. 1: 21-33.
 Latha, P.K., Y. Darshana, and Vidhya Venugopal. 2015. “Role Of Building Material In Thermal Comfort In Tropical Climates – A Review”. Journal Of Building Engineering 3: 104-113.
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