Friday, January 11, 2013


Every Friday, a column in NST RED will feature an article written by me. It's all about the unique spaces which I have come across that provide interesting or unusual experiences. Yes, the stories I write for NST RED can be about anything as long as it is related to spaces/places. After all, the RED in NST RED stands for Real Estate & Decor.

So, this Friday 11th January 2013 - I have written an article about loving our spaces in the green way. It includes an interview with one of our Malaysian talented "Green" Architects, Mr. Kiat Tung. 

As there are always "constraints" in the newspapers' publication, this is the full version with extra pictures and information. 


Whether we realise it or not, our daily lives are structured around various living spaces – be they online or offline. Every activity of ours is labeled and boxed into each specific space. As our society evolves, our living spaces also undergo changes.

The Modern "C-House"

In our own little space, our evolving lifestyles demand that our living spaces be improved, innovated, and upgraded. We seek to be constantly surprised and wowed. But what does it really mean to enhance our living space? For one, do we even consider the effects our living spaces have on the environment?
The Water Feature of the "C-House"

Most of us tend to assume that “green” living spaces are very costly. This is perhaps one of the reasons why many have not incorporated the “green” elements into our habitats.

The Night View of the Water Feature

Dispelling ‘costly green’ myth

In order to dispel the myth that creating a “green” living space is expensive, I met up with one of my architect friends, Kiat Tung of T&T Architect Sdn Bhd. Kiat Tung was involved in the drafting of the “Green Building Index Residential Tool” and was once selected as one of the “30 Under 40 Emerging Malaysian Architects”. His specialty is in how to design green buildings without breaking the bank.

Kiat Tung, The "Green" Architect

One of Kiat Tung’s achievements is the “Dream Home Award” for the “C House” he designed and built in Mutiara Damansara. It is essentially a three-storey “green” contemporary house. The “C House” is about 6,000 sq ft in total built-up. The cost of its construction was RM1.2 million, and RM500,000 was spent on the interiors. Kiat Tung also undertook the ID (Interior Design) work for this amazing “green” house.  

These are some of the “green” features of the “C House”:-

a.   Rainwater harvesting system;
b.   Cross ventilation for e.g. the Pond is in the cross ventilation path;
c.    Orientated North-South to minimise heat gain;
d.   Inverter air conditioner system;
e.   Use Low VOC paint;
f.     Optimise natural day lighting;
g.   Minimum window on East and West wall; and
h.   Double cavity wall on the Western wall to reduce heat gain

Living Room of the "C-House"

Kiat Tung shared some of the simplest and cost effective “green” ways which we can easily incorporate into our homes. They are as follows:-

1) Install rainwater harvesting system: This costs about RM2,000 to RM3,000. In Kiat Tung’s opinion, "Bacfree" is a good system because it has complete rainwater harvesting system from filtration to storage. It is almost maintenance-free because the filter will not be clotted due to the design.

The Living Room

2) Install Inverter air-con system: It may cost a few hundred ringgit extra for a single horse power air-con, but we would see a 50 per cent savings in our electricity bills. Inverter is efficient because the motor speed varies depending on demand. Conventional motor runs on constant speed. As a matter of fact, every motor or appliance which has inverter technology installed would be by far more efficient, such as fridges, lift motors etc.

The Other View of the Living Room

3) Zone the air-con areas: For example, compartmentalise the living room so that cool air in living room is contained. Thus, the doors and windows of the room are closed when the air-con is turned on so that the cool air does not leak. The same can be done for the other rooms in the house.

The Balcony at the Top Floor

4) Use low energy bulbs: These can be compact fluorescent bulbs, or LED bulbs. Again, we would enjoy about 20 to 30 per cent savings in our electricity bills as a result.

The Bathroom

5) Cool the roof: Most of the heat comes from the roofs of our houses. Therefore, Kiat Tung suggests using a cooling roof system like “Monier Cool Roof”. It is a ventilated tile roof. There are other brands such as “Cool Roof”, which offers a complete system so that air can be naturally ventilated within the roof to cool down the roof. In normal roofing, hot air is often trapped in the roof itself. 

Night View of the "C-House"

6) Use Low VOC paint: There are no extra costs in procuring these “green” paints. In fact, most generic paints have high VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Emissions of VOC from paints are hazardous to our health and the environment.  

The Floating Stairs

As the earth’s natural resources are being depleted with each passing day, Malaysia is not going to be spared. One fine day, everything that fuels our lifestyles may run out. Thus, what we do in each living space will undoubtedly affect the environment at large. It is not a myth that the earth suffers when our daily living “practices” do not promote a “greener” living code of conduct. When the earth becomes afflicted, we would also inherit the same affliction.

Redirecting kitchen waste

Kiat Tung also highlights one of the grave concerns that are harming our environment in Malaysia, as we speak. This is, waste discharge.

Kiat explains, “In most Malaysian houses, the kitchen’s waste discharge goes directly into drainage systems. This is the most common problem in a typical terrace house’s renovation that involves extending the kitchen. For convenience and ease of construction, most contractors would just connect the new kitchen waste discharge to the drain.”

When kitchen waste enters into the drainage system, it would not be treated first, but is released straight into our water systems such as rivers, seas etc. The right method is to connect the kitchen waste discharge into the sewage system. In this way, the waste would be treated first, and then be released into our water systems.

Kiat added, “Kitchen waste discharge from hawker stalls and food courts also pose a similar major problem. This is happening in 95 per cent of our every day corner shop-lots which operate as hawker centres, or what we normally refer to as “Kopitiams”. When there is no proper sewerage discharge for these kitchen wastes, our rivers and water systems would be inevitably polluted. This may be one of the reasons why our Government has to spend billions in cleaning up our rivers and water systems each year.”

Kiat further emphasised, “People are polluting the source and that is, our drains. Not many people are aware that our drains are connected to our rivers, our ponds, and eventually our seas! Grease, oil and cleaning agents kill our marine lives, and our entire eco-system.”

Kiat Tung believes that the best solution is “to create more awareness to the homeowners and hawkers. Local authorities should also be more diligent in demolishing illegal structures set up as restaurants by the roadside.”

In addition, proper Urban Planning is crucial. As Kiat Tung elaborates,  

         "Local authorities should encourage high density development which makes efficient public transport. The remaining forest in Klang Valley should not be gazetted for development. The idea is to use minimum footprint and we should go high or underground. Ideally, the government should demarcate land for development with well connected to public transport eg MRT. The demarcated land should be allowed to develop very high density with plot ratio of minimum 12 and above. The demarcated land should be tendered and awarded to the highest bidder (like what is done in Hong Kong or Singapore). The money collected is then used to buy back land which is not close to public transport and be gazetted as "green lung" or "forest". Gasing Hill is a good example."

Courage to demand better

When we understand how each action will affect others, we would begin to appreciate how the globe is likened to a “fish bowl”. What we consume and discard would invariably go back into this very same earth, this very sacred space we all call home. How each space can become a better living and breathing place is very much dependent on what people do and how they do it.

Above all, it is how much we have invested in that very space. When I say invest – I mean, an investment of heart, time and effort, not just money.

We are the ones who can define every living space by the decisions we make and the things we allow to be put into place. We, as the decision-makers, have the power to decide how we want to enrich our living spaces. After all, we are the very ones who have to live with them or suffer the consequences.

Today, we can scour the web to educate ourselves in order to make wiser decisions on our living spaces. It is definitely possible to create living spaces that reflect our needs, lifestyles, identity, heritage and even our values – without causing further harm to our environment or damaging our bank accounts.

I firmly believe that if we give the same amount of love and care to our living spaces, we would enjoy the beneficial experiences of living in them. Therefore, to live as we would love and vice versa might the key to making every living space of ours meaningful and fulfilling.

All it takes is a little courage to demand for better standards, higher quality and a conscientious attitude towards our environment. We need not surrender to anything less because we know we deserve better. More importantly, we can leave behind a better place for our future generations. 

Here’s to beautiful living spaces that bring meaning and lasting joy to one and all. Until next time, have a fabulous weekend ahead.



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