Green Developments

Professor Jason Pomeroy, Pomeroy Studio

GREEN IT UP - Leaders in sustainable design tell us how buildings can bring wellbeing to people, even in high-density cities


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Stress, heat, pollutants, artificial light, sedentary lifestyles … it’s little wonder the planet’s city dwellers are seeking respite when they travel. Whether drawn to the prospect of reconnecting with nature or investing in time to enhance their sense of wellbeing, more people today are electing to holiday in destinations with a wellness offering. Just as Asia has proven a pioneer of the spa resort, so too has the region been leading a movement to reverse the decline in quality of our built environments. Populations may explode, metropolises may sprawl, high-rises may climb ever higher but perhaps our urban spaces need not be the natural enemy of wellbeing. That’s certainly the thinking behind the green strategies being developed by progressive design studios in Asia and America. They believe it’s possible to create a sense of wellbeing both for people and the planet through a commitment to sustainable building design in urban settings and beyond.

Vertical urbanism
Named 2014’s Young Green Advocate of the Year by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority, Professor Jason Pomeroy heads another pioneering studio in the garden city-state.

Pomeroy’s B House was Singapore’s first operational carbon-negative property, a 1,000sqm residential proposition that optimises natural light and ventilation, reduces energy and water consumption, while also generating more energy than its occupants can consume through the installation of cost-effective, locally manufactured photovoltaic cells, generating more energy than is typically consumed by an average household in a year (between 12,000kWh and 20,000kWh in gas and electricity use annually). In fact, since the energy footprint is only 8,000kWh per year, B House frees its owners of all their electricity bills, thereby pushing the envelope of passive green design.

A leading expert in vertical urbanism, Pomeroy has noticed increasing levels of interest in sustainable building methods from the hotel industry.

“It’s natural that forward-looking hospitality developers are thinking not only about energy and water costs, but also about ways they can weave renewable resources into their sites without compromising the guest experience,” he says. “The way we’re moving forward with hoteliers is to design properties with contemporary comforts and amenities, while factoring in subtle references to the local culture alongside inherent sustainability.”

“For example, one of our Malaysian projects, a development called Jahabah in Penang, showcases innovative architecture, yet it’s inspired by the Islamic gardens and geometry of the past,” he says, underlining the importance of vernacular. “People are no longer seeking bland pastiches when they travel, rather something modern that also captures some essence of the locality.”

Carbon sponges
Designs at Pomeroy Studio tread the line between creative and academic rigour. Advanced environmental modelling software, developed by the team, is used to optimise building façades to maximise natural light and air while reducing solar heat gains. Interiors are cross-ventilated and truncated to achieve the same. Vertical greenery and rooftop gardens are embraced to both bring down temperatures and reduce storm water run-off, which in turn helps with the management of flood risk; “one square metre of garden can absorb six litres of water,” says Pomeroy.

In his 2013 book, The Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat, Pomeroy explains how plants and trees act as carbon sponges in cities, removing noxious pollutants and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by metabolising them into harmless by-products. Carried out in 2004, a Johnston and Newton study revealed that urban settings with trees have a number of dust particles of 1,000-3,000 per litre compared to greenery-free environments that typically contain 10,000-12,000 particles per litre. Assessing a number of studies that have measured how greenery cools the urban environment, Pomeroy notes that drops in temperature of between 3.6°C and a whopping 11.3°C have been recorded.

This scientific understanding is filtering its way into the latest hotel developments by Pomeroy Studio. At Bateau Blanc in Malaysia, for example, rainwater will be harvested, low ecotoxicity materials will be installed, indoor and outdoor planting will help absorb dust and pollution, LED lighting will illuminate interiors and there will be recreational green spaces in the sky. Pomeroy says none of these green techniques will make the construction phase of this or similar projects any more expensive than if they were being realised through traditional building methods.

“So much of sustainable design is about returning to the basics, before technology arrived on the scene. By harnessing nature, we can make environments that are both non-toxic and cost-effective.”

Eco pods
Another hospitality project that called for an innovative construction solution is part of a tourism destination called Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson, Malaysia. The flower-shaped resort features 544 water villas and suites with private pools and gardens. It’s the largest water villa community in the world.

“The developer, Kuala Lumpur Metro Group, was committed to a lightness of touch on the landscape so we designed 20 Passive Eco Pods based on modular construction methods,” says Pomeroy. “They were transported to the site in sections and assembled there, avoiding earth preparation and clearing costs.”

Built of fibreglass and inspired in form by the Venetian Vaporetto, the eco pods harness light, air, solar and water optimisation techniques common to other Pomeroy Studio developments, as well as intelligent storage units and walls that conceal technology, equipment and belongings.

Each Passive Eco Pod, designed as a self-enclosed two-bedroom villa, results in a 70 per cent reduction in energy bills and 50 per cent reduction in water bills compared to a typical hotel unit of the same size.

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