Monday, March 05, 2007

Climatic Design Feature in the Traditional Malay House for Ventilation Purpose

PROCEEDINGS: INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR MALAY ARCHITECTURE AS LINGUA FRANCA, 22-23 JUNE 2005, JAKARTA, INDONESIA, Pp. 41-48
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Organised by: University Trisakti, Indonesia in collobration with Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Indonesia, University of Technology, Malaysia and Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan
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Tajul Edrus Nordin1, Husrul Nizam Husin2 and Kamarul Syahril Kamal3
123University Technology MARA, Malaysia

Abstract

Repeated calls for a distinct tropical architecture are being made based on the simple reason that the weather in tropical countries, such as Malaysia, is vastly different from that of countries in Europe and North America where the majority of today’s architectural innovations and movements originate. Until the advent of mechanical ventilation, all buildings in Malaysia has been designed with particular regard to local tropical climatic conditions. The successful design of the traditional Malay house in relation to the environmental aspects has made one wonders that the Malay people in the past seemed to understand bioclimatic design more compared to the recent building development. The deep understanding of nature-approach design can be seen from the existing traditional Malay houses particularly those located in kampungs in Malaysia. This paper intends merely to focus on the design characteristics of the traditional Malay house to meet the climatic requirements with the main focus on the ventilation aspect as reflected in the design of the house.

Conference Theme: Environmental Design
Keywords: Tropical climate, traditional Malay house, ventilation aspect, climatic control design requirement.

1.0 Introduction

Shelter is a basic need for man. The effort to shelter himself against the extremes of weather and climate has over the age been the ultimate aim of all human being. Malay Dwellings evolved in South East Asia are very responsive to the climatic influence. Take the Malaysian Malay house which is made of timber or bamboo for walls and palm fronds for roof. The many windows in the wall provides good ventilation and views as well as creating a comfortable and cool atmosphere. The building material itself provides comfort and cooling the interior part of the house. It can be said that the Malay traditional house is carefully designed in accordance to the weather, and thus, resulting in a climatically responsive house that provides comfort for the dwellers. Besides this, the climatic influence is also often interwoven with cultural influence.

2.0 Overview On The Malay Traditional House Architecture

The traditional Malay house is a timber house raised on stilts. It is basically a post and lintel structure with wooden or bamboo walls. Set in a middle of a large compound, the traditional Malay house not only reflects the creative and aesthetic skills of the Malays, but also meets their socioeconomic, cultural and environmental needs. The basic design of the traditional Malay house and its construction methods give it great flexibility so that extensions to the house can be carried whenever necessary. (Nasir, 1985). A distinctive feature of the vernacular Malay house is its height and/or steeply sloping roof with gables at both ends. The roof is covered with a lightweight and excellent thermal insulator made from the fronds of the local palm trees, which holds little heat during the day and cools down at night. The gables are fitted with screens, which provide protection from driving rain while allowing ventilation. Windows are plentiful, lining the walls and providing good ventilation and views for the house. This quality of openness is also reflected by the large open interior spaces with minimal partitions. Another distinctive feature is the practice of raising the house on posts above the ground. Since many early settlements were built along rivers and the coastline, the raised floor construction was an ideal solution for coping with ground dampness in the hot and humid tropical climate and also with the heavy rains that frequently resulted in flash floods. In settlements that were built within the thick rainforest, the raised floor system also allowed the house to be ventilated through cracks in the raised floor. Traditional Malay houses have at least two entrances by steps, the main entrance at the front for visitors and males and the one at the back mostly for women and children. One of the most congenial of the traditional Malay house is its openness. The house is divided into areas, rather than rooms, for various social and household activities. A noticeable feature in the traditional house is the absence of portions or solid ceiling-height walls separating the three main areas - the veranda, main house and kitchen - which are formed by slight floor level changes and the positioning of doorways to separate the different areas. From a distance, the traditional Malay house seems to merge naturally with the environment.

3.0 Malaysian Climate And The Environment

The climate of Malaysia referring to Yuan (1987:68) can be classified as warm-humid equatorial, characterized by high temperatures and humidity. Air temperature averages within 22 and 32 degree Celsius with small annual and diurnal ranges. It is continually near but seldom exceeds normal skin temperature. Humidity is high through the year, averaging about 75% or more. With heavy clouds covering the high water vapour content in the air, direct solar radiation is filtered. The high humidity also accelerates rotting, rusting and the growth of algae and mould. The winds are generally of low-variable speed. Strong winds can occur with the rains. Rainfall is also high throughout the year averaging 250 to 300 cm annually. Rains become more intense with the monsoons. Vegetation growth is sometimes difficult to control under the good conditions of air, moderate heat and high rainfall. Air flowing across any surface is subject to frictional effects. Wind spreads are higher with increasing heights and are lower near the ground where there are many obstructions. The relatively high percentages of reflected solar radiation from the sea, sky and beach make glare controls in houses necessary. Occasional strong winds which occur during monsoon seasons may pose serious hazards to houses and the settlers.

3.0 Climatic Considerations
3.1 Thermal comfort requirements

The main causes of climatic stress in Malaysia according to Yuan (1987:70) are “…..high temperatures, solar radiation, humidity and glare”. Therefore, to achieve climatic comfort in the modern Malaysian houses, these factors must be controlled besides the control of rain, floods and occasional strong winds. For thermal comfort, heat gain by the body from the environment through solar radiation or warm air must be minimized to constant body temperature of around 37 degree Celsius. Heat loss through conduction, radiation and convection is negligible in the climate because the air temperatures are continually near the body temperature. Direct and indirect solar radiation, hot air, together with conduction and radiation from the building fabric are also the main sources of heat gain to the body. Thus, to achieve some degree of thermal comfort, the saturated air envelope around the body must be removed. In most modern buildings where high thermal capacity material such as bricks and concrete are used, the heat absorbed within the building fabric which is radiated to the interiors of the buildings causes great discomfort. From the above discussion, it is clear that to achieve thermal comfort in the warm humid climate, solar heat gain by the building and human body must be minimized while heat dissipation from the body must be maximized by ventilation and evaporative cooling. The deep understanding of such thermal comfort requirements and the nature of the Malaysian climate is reflected in the climate adaptation of the traditional Malay house discussed in the following sections.


3.2 The Climatic Control Design Requirement

In reference to the climatic approach, the design and form of the traditional Malay house is to provide a total control on three climatic factors, listed as follow:
a) Wind
b) Rain
c) Sun

From the previous explanation of the climatic characteristics of Malaysia, it is obvious that to attain optional climatic control, the Malay house referring to (Nasir, 1985) should provide the following points;
i. Allow adequate ventilation for cooling and reducing humidity.
ii. Use building materials with low thermal capacity so that little heat is transmitted into the house.
iii. Control direct solar radiation.
iv. Control glare from the open sky and surrounding.
v. Protection against rain.
vi. Ensure adequate natural vegetation in the surroundings to provide a cooler environment.

The traditional Malay house is geared towards providing effective ventilation, taking into account the aspects as listed above. True to the needs of shelter, the traditional Malay house is formed based on the ventilation and solar radiation control to provide climatic comfort for the house. These are the most effective means for climatic comfort in a house in the warm and humid Malaysian climate and environment.

4.0 Design Approach For Ventilation

Basically, the concept of ventilation in the Malay traditional house is a combination of three approaches:
a) Ventilation from top
b) Ventilation from bottom
c) Cross ventilation (at body level)

Based on this concept, the house was designed to fulfill the requirements. The significant result is the climatically responsive design features consisting of devices and thermal capacity building materials.

4.1 Planning Layout

a) Site Planning
Two main criteria of the Malay house are:
i) Random arrangement of houses. This ensures that the wind velocity in the houses in the latter path of the wind will not be substantially reduced (refer Figure 4).
ii) Malay traditional houses are built on stilts. As velocity of wind increases with altitude, the house, particularly at body level ensures the capture of winds of higher velocity. House that is built on stilts also ensures full capture of ventilation as it allows avoidance on ground cover plant which restricts the air movement.

b) Orientation
Traditional Malay houses are often oriented to face Mecca (i.e. in an east-west direction) for religious reasons. The east-west orientation minimizes areas exposed to solar radiation. This orientation also suits the wind patterns in Malaysia (north-east and south-west).

4.2 Building Layout


For traditional Malay house, the body level is the most vital area for ventilation for comfort. Open plan concept is adopted, providing good ventilation. The design approaches of the traditional Malay house in conjunction with the needs of achieving good ventilation are summarized as follow:
a) The elongated open plans of the traditional Malay house allow easy passage of air, assuring cross ventilation is achieved.
b) Minimal partitions and these allow good air circulation within the internal part of the house. The open plan concept reflects the importance given to ventilation in the design of the traditional Malay house.

4.3 Openings


Windows and doors are the main elements for ventilation at body level. Other than these, there are also decorative elements, specifically designed to allow air passage into the interior part of the house. Figure 5 depicts the ventilation approaches from openings as well as other design element in order to achieve thermal comfort. The design characteristics of the openings are as follow:
a) Having many full length openable windows and doors at body level to allow cross ventilation.
b) Depending on types of traditional Malay house, some appear to have intricate woodcarvings such as tebar layar, which allows air passage through the roof area.
c) The position of windows of the Malay house can be found at all panels of the house, especially at living and dining areas.

4.4 Roof Elements

a) Roof spaces in the traditional Malay house are properly ventilated by the provision of ventilation joints and panels in the roof construction.
b) No ceiling panel is used, assuring no air blockage.
c) Ventilated roof space that helps to cool the house.

5.0 Conclusion And Recommendation

From the comparison and examples as discussed earlier, it can be seen that modern housing estate houses in Malaysia are not only badly designed climatically, but they usually go against the basic requirements for thermal comfort. The characteristics as discuss earlier found in many modern houses making them very uncomfortable to live in. Besides the use of unsuitable building materials in the environment, social and economic pressure has also contributed to the adverse urban climate. With high density living, more areas are paved and less left for trees and greenery. Higher building costs and profit motivation have also cut the necessary large roof eaves short, made open shady verandahs disappear and lowered ceiling heights. The need for greater security and privacy in the urban areas has led to house designs which are more closed, thus reducing ventilations. Modern bulky furniture and finishes also make the house warmer as they store up heat and make the house stuffy and crowded. The way modern housing estates are developed makes the housing estate barren of vegetation. Residents have to suffer the intense heat absorbed and stored in the barren environment. The use of the traditional Malay house form as a source for Malaysian identity in the modern contexts is both difficult and tricky and the present approaches used have largely failed for many reasons. Due to lack of understanding of the traditional Malay house, the approaches toward the use of the traditional Malay house form for the creation of Malaysian identity have been superficial and uncreative. Most of these approaches have taken the traditional Malay house into completely new socio-economic and cultural contexts. Many of them are set in the urban setting and applied to modern institutional, commercial and public buildings instead of the housing unit. As a solution, clearly lessons can be drawn from the climatic design of the traditional Malay house for housing in the modern context. Wooden houses and lightweight construction can be promoted in the suburban areas in the housing estates where densities are not so high to suit the environment.

REFRENCES

1. Nasir, A.H. (1985) Introduction of Traditional Malay House: Peninsular Malaysia Darulfikir: Kuala Lumpur.
2. Fee, C.V. (1998) The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Architecture Archipelago Press: Singapore.
3. Yuan, L.J. (1979) Relief of Climatic Stress in Housing in Malaysia Architect Journal Vol. 4:79 December 1979.
4. Yuan, L.J. (1984) Under One Roof: The Traditional Malay House IDRC Reports Vol. 12 No. 4 January 1984.
5. Yuan, L.J. (1987) The Malay House: Rediscovering Malaysia’s Indigenous Shelter System Institute Masyarakat: Penang.
6. Malaysia Government (1986) Fifth Malaysian Plan 1986-1990 National Printing Department: Kuala Lumpur.
7. Vlatseas, S. (1990) A History of Malaysian Architecture Longman Singapore Publishers: Singapore.
8. Sani, S. (1981) The Built Environment, Microclimate and Human Comfort: The Malaysian Experience CAP Seminar on Appropriate Technology, Culture and Lifestyle in Development November 1981.
9. Mubin, S. (1969) Traditional Malay House forms in Terengganu and Kelantan JMBRAS Part 2 p.p. 1-9 December 1969.
10. Katherine, S. (1965) My Kampong House The Straits Times Annual 1965 p.p. 74-77.
11. Hai, T.S. and Sendut, H. (1979) Public and Private Housing in Malaysia Heinemann: Kuala Lumpur.
12. Hamid, W.A. (1964) Religion and Culture of the Modern Malay Pall Mall Press: London.
13. Mahmud, Z. (1970) The Period and Nature of Traditional Settlement in the Malay Peninsular JMBRAS Vol. 43 Part 2 p.p. 81-113 December 1970.

1 comment:

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