The proposal references a typical terrace house built across Malaysia characteristic of 22 feet wide frontages that overlooks out to the street. It explores the potentials of replacing construction materials such as concrete, steel and bricks with bamboo in the hugely popular house typology. The proposal is still at an experimental stage, but it is hoped that it will spark some interest among developers and the local government with a view to start building housing more sustainably using bamboo.
Project Name: The Bamboo Terrace Homes
Architect Name: Eleena Jamil Architect
Use of bamboo in domestic structures in Malaysia is probably as old as human civilization itself. However, contemporary use is largely restricted to temporary structures. This can be attributed to its low natural resistance to insect, fungi and bacterial attack and lack of standard preservation techniques. Nevertheless, bamboo that is treated and preserved properly will last a lifetime, making it one of the most sustainable building materials.
Typically, use of bamboo in house design is limited to two extremes: either as temporary lowcost homes in poor, mainly rural areas, or as a one-off house for the discerning owner who wishes to live sustainably, located almost invariably in beautiful exotic sites and locations. In this proposal, the underlying idea is to demonstrate that it is possible to build permanent and comfortable contemporary homes in urban and suburban areas for the masses using local natural material such as bamboo. It intends to propel the idea of bamboo as a modern and everyday construction material just like bricks, steel or concrete.
Bamboo grows very quickly where culms suitable for structures can be harvested within 3 years of cultivation. It is a remarkably strong material for building structures, and this is convincingly demonstrated by looking at ‘informal structures’isuch as scaffolding for tall buildings in Hong Kong and large vernacular edifices in Indonesia and Vietnam and bridges in parts of rural Southeast Asia.
In this terrace house proposal, bamboo culms are used to hold up the floors and the roof as they span between the party walls. The party walls are full height masonry barriers between individual homes which adheres to the fire safety requirement to prevent spread of flame across terraces. The main structure is wholly bamboo except for the bathroom enclosures where they are prefabricated lightweight concrete units used to contain the wet areas and keep moisture away from the structural bamboo components. Internal and external walls are lightweight bamboo composite board system, whereas floors will be covered with engineered bamboo floorboards.
The bamboo structural frames will be pre-fabricated, mass-produced and flat-packed, to reduce costs and environmental impact, by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during construction. This would allow for higher standards of bamboo jointing and finishing quality and ease of assembly at site. Modularization and prefabrication can also help keep the cost of building bamboo terrace homes much lower that standard construction methods.
The front façade has large glazed openings facing the street which are shaded by large overhangs and balconies to reduce heat gain. A similar approach is applied to the rear façade. The terraces’ street is an improvement from the existing Malaysian typology. Here, streetscapes are designed to encourage connection, understanding and community spirit among residents. It does not exclude vehicular access, but the streetscape emphasises pedestrian movement through a process of traffic calming where width of driveways is minimised for more pedestrian walkways and landscaping. Along the rear, the terraces are separated by landscaped pathways.
The terrace home units are designed with the residents’ quality of life in mind: each house has an internal courtyard and balconies, while the layout creates a variety of amenity spaces and outlooks. Despite the use of a very traditional structural material, the terrace homes have clean lines and extensive glazing, drawing inspiration from the tradition of modernism. Open plan ground floor layout, first floor and upper floor living rooms enhance the flexibility of each house and create vertical spatial connections between living spaces.
Access to outdoor space at different levels is provided throughout the house: ground floor patio, first floor balcony, and second floor terraces. A louvered roof light at the top of the staircase allows light to flow down through the house and ventilate the central spaces. This ventilating roof light creates an indoor courtyard where plants will thrive.
This proposal is suitable to build in countries that can grow their own bamboo where simple logistics will keep carbon footprint to a minimum level. The potentials of bamboo in mass housing is infinite where more research and development will extend the use of the sustainable material to standardized building components such as doors, windows, ironmongery and handrails.
Eleena Jamil Architect
ELEENA JAMIL trained at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University in United Kingdom. After a short working stint, she joined the architecture faculty at Cardiff as a teaching assistant while completing her MPhil and PhD postgraduate research. Eleena set up her eponymous architectural practice in Kuala Lumpur in 2005 and it has since been growing steadily with an expanding portfolio of work. Working within the context of South-east Asia and beyond, her work has been founded on research into specific social and climatic imperatives of each brief within a broader cultural framework. Projects developed within her practice have been widely published in international press and have been shortlisted for awards. In 2018, Eleena Jamil Architect was shortlisted for Dezeen’s Architect of the Year Award.