Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's getting hot in here!

It is quite amazing, when you think about it, how buildings and structures in Malaysia since the 1980s are completely inadequate to deal with the hot rays of sunshine in our tropical climate.

This, it appears, has something to do with the advent of air-conditioning and, centralised air-conditioning.

It appears that the availability of air-conditioning has given architectural designers the licence to draw buildings in Malaysia that pays no regard whatsoever to the power of the Sun.

Whereas, the pre-1980s buildings had lots of ventilation holes, canopies, verandahs and five-foot ways, these appear to have been discarded in favour of buildings, whether commercial or residential, that sealed every possible natural airflow and faced any which way. 

It is as if air-conditioning allowed building designers in Malaysia to thumb their noses at Nature. This was possibly the architectural equivalent of the Flight of Icarus.

So, we are now consistently confronted by the strong heat of either the morning sun or, the afternoon sun and, often, both. What do we do? Why, we turn the air-conditioning to 16 degrees, of course. This brings the average room temperature to about 20 degrees. 

Quite nice...except for the pesky monthly bills from Tenaga Nasional...and those rooms that cannot really cool down when the Sun is beating down.

When Ken Yeang designed the Mesiniaga Building and won accolades and awards, I thought, it was the turning point where Malaysian buildings, commercial or residential, would show the world what contemporary design can do in tropical settings.

Image sourced from here.

It has not happened.

Instead, we were and, still are, exposed to the most ill-thought out building designs where no regard whatsoever is given to the heat from the parts of the building that faces the Sun.

Nor, are we given the right to enjoy the cool morning or, evening breeze.

We can only hope and pray that Malaysian architects will start to assert themselves to landowners and developers to emphasise the absolute common sense that is required to design Malaysian buildings that are properly tropicalised so that occupants can truly enjoy the beauty of the Malaysian tropical climate instead of cursing the heat.

That is not fair to Sun or the Wind an, it is certainly not fair to the occupants of the buildings.