Wednesday, March 29

Architecture: Engineering the nation’s future


The art of sketching, drafting, planning and designing are all part and parcel of ‘De architectura’ world – in which a good building should satisfy the three principals of firmitas, utilitas and venustas, translated roughly as durability, utility and beauty.

As human culture developed and knowledge began to be formalised through oral traditions and practices, buildings become a craft and ‘architecture’ is the name given to the most highly formalised and respected versions of that craft.

Now, with modern architecture coming to play, it is all about the efforts to reconcile the principles of underlying architectural designs with rapid technological advancements and the modernisation of society.

“What is particularly interesting about today’s construction industry is the speed at which things can be carried out.

We can produce more complex and unexpected forms and there are more opportunities to work with unusual materials,” United Network Studio co-founder and principal architect Ben van Berkel told BizHive Weekly in an interview.

“Of course all of these advances still need to comply with the existing regulations and building codes.

However, the industry has undergone such tremendous expansion in recent times, with the result that architects and the construction industry can now learn a great deal from each other,” he explained.

He believed, in architecture, one should learn to reverse-engineer production processes towards design processes in order to become more affordable, fast and efficient in operational design strategies.

“In a global sense, we are still in the aftermath of a period during which there was a tendency for the profession to lean too heavily towards landmarks and iconographic architecture, but that is changing now.

We will be focusing on how to make buildings more intelligent in the future,” said Berkel.

Berkel pointed out that there was incredible progress taking place in Southeast Asia at the moment, but working methods in the region differed somewhat from those in Europe and America.

In Southeast Asia, working methods were more challenging and there was a great deal of interest in future oriented principles of design and sustainability, he added.

“This will also be implemented at far greater speed in certain countries within the region than in any other part of the world, as there are still so many projects that need to be built there.” “The opposite is the case in Europe and the US, so we will probably see the pertinent issues that are currently under discussion worldwide within the profession being implemented in Southeast Asia within the next fi ve to ten years,” he explained further.

Back in Malaysia, Berkel said buildings here needed to be protected from heat loads given that Malaysia is located at the equatorial monsoon region, which is hot and humid throughout the year.

Better solutions from climatisation could be introduced, for instance by cooling down concrete, making resourceful use of wind and using specific facade technologies such as automated blinds and intelligent or integrated responsive shading systems.

“There have of course always been techniques for keeping buildings cool, through the use of natural ventilation techniques, courtyards, shading and thicker walls – but today technology can expand upon these systems and implement them in much more effective ways,” he commented.

“Sustainability in architecture can only prove to be truly adequate – or can only hope to have sufficient impact, if it is not simply ‘add on sustainability’, such as green roofs and so on.”

True sustainability could only be achieved when a thorough sustainable science was to be introduced into architecture in a fully integrated way, he stressed.

“Good to know architects and engineers are now working together to ensure that science and the necessary technology is being developed and implemented in such a way that – not only sustainable buildings are being created, but also sustainable urban plansare being implemented,” Berkel concluded.

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