Back to basics for sustainable design

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JASON Pomeroy, an award-winning architect, master planner and academic at the forefront of the sustainable built environment agenda, has come a long way since his chance visit to St Paul's Cathedral in London when he was eight that sparked a lifelong passion for architecture.

"I learnt from my father that Christopher Wren was the architect of the magnificent structure and that the role of an architect was to shape space through the design of buildings. This trip would eventually lead me to Cambridge — a place that has many buildings designed by Wren — to study," he says in an email interview with City & Country recently.

At Cambridge, Pomeroy saw a different side to Wren's creations, which harnessed the benefits of natural light, ventilation and appropriate orientation of buildings to reduce negative environmental impact.

"Such a passive design approach is something architects and designers have been doing since the beginning of time. Yet, technology has allowed us to forget this," he says, adding that this inspired him to embrace basic design principles in his work, which he believes is key to successful sustainable design that is not only functional, but also cost-efficient and environmentally-responsive.

Prior to establishing Pomeroy Studio, he worked at international construction, development and design firms such as YRM, Kajima and Broadway Malyan, and was based in places like Brussels, Amsterdam, London, Bahrain and Kuala Lumpur.

In 2008, Pomeroy relocated to Asia and established Broadway Malyan's Singapore office. As board director for Asia at the company, Pomeroy's award-winning projects included Sime Darby Property Bhd's Idea House in Shah Alam, Selangor — which is the first carbon-zero prototype house in Southeast Asia — and Vision Valley Malaysia, the developer's 80,000-acre integrated property development in Kuala Lumpur.

Another of the firm's award-winning projects is Century Properties' Trump tower in Manila — the tallest residential tower in the Philippines.

Pomeroy had the privilege of collaborating with several fashion designers such as Versace on the Milano Residences — the first fashion-branded condominium in Asia, and Missoni on Missoni Livingstone, fashion-branded skycourts and skygardens. Both projects are located in the Philippines.

Pomeroy Studio also lectures and publishes widely and is the author of Idea House: Future Tropical Living Today and Skycourts and Skygardens: Greening the Urban Habitat. He has spoken at such events as the World Architecture Festival, TEDx and PechaKucha as well.

Pomeroy is an adjunct professor at University of Nottingham and BCA Academy in Singapore and Mapua Institute of Technology in the Philippines. He also sits on the editorial board of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, and is a visiting professor at the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Windows on the Park

Pomeroy Studio has been invited by Selangor Dredging Bhd (SDB) to provide a third-party review of its design for Windows on the Park in Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

"It is important to note that we are not the designers. We were appointed to undertake a quantitative analysis of the design, and we were heartened by the fact that they wished to go beyond obtaining a green rating to measure the environmental performance of the development," says Pomeroy.

The development's air quality, water consumption, optimised greenery, daylight penetration, ventilation and energy consumption were all assessed to ascertain and compare the design's performance.

Pomeroy says SDB's approach to sustainable design is very much in line with the "back to basics" concept, which seeks to optimise the passive design attributes of being less reliant on artificial lighting and ventilation, hence reducing everyday consumption.

The appropriate orientation is able to minimise solar heat gain by 30%, while the slender floor plates are able to enhance daylight penetration by 57%. Pomeroy says SDB also took note of the combination of orientation and separation of the buildings to create a singular loaded corridor with optimised air flow and cross-ventilation in the living spaces by up to 70%.

Other projects being undertaken by Pomeroy include Trump Tower and Eco City in the Philippines, B House in Singapore and Passive Eco House in Kajang, Selangor.

On Malaysian green buildings and future trendsPomeroy says one should be conscious that a green building need not look like a green building, and that sustainable design need not be expensive as it should bear the essence of traditional building forms that are climatically and culturally responsive to reduce operational costs, and use technologies sparingly to reduce capital costs.

He believes there are four key emerging considerations from the green building industry in the future. In addition to that, he would like to see more attempts to reinterpret the cultural past in order to inform present-day design in Malaysia.

"Some of the greatest examples of green design have already been created. For instance, the flexibility of the Victorian terraced house. These structures require minimal technology, use local materials and have stood the test of time in being adaptable to suit the needs of subsequent generations and their living practices," Pomeroy explains, adding that features such as tall sash windows optimise daylight penetration and single-sided ventilation exploits height and differences in air pressure.

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of July 1-7, 2013.