Saturday, October 25, 2008

10 degree roof shadow studies; winter solstice @ 4pm

There is about a 1m eave on all of these.

Friday, October 24, 2008

School images from around campus

This building has a deep planter along the windows on every floor...with the most gorgeous pink flowers cascading down.
Can you see what is wrong in this picture?
Some sun-shading and an open first floor (with multiple small elevation changes to keep things interesting...there's also a ramp on the side.)
Some small privacy/sun screens on the dorms

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Green screens

Thanks for the brise soleil images. Here's part
of the new apartment building I did in Singapore-
a green wall to keep out some of the sun and
provide some privacy, dappled light inside etc.

It would be good to research plant types for
something like this at CTS. One major difference
is the variation in rainfall in Thailand- any green
wall would need watering- maybe groundwater,
using simple solar-powered pumps? Another
problem is keeping the plants under control- ours
have reached the roof eaves and need constant trimming!


from DeBoer's site:

Renewable - The Phyllostachys varieties, most suitable for growing and building in the U.S. where we must deal with frost, will grow 12-18 inches a day once a grove is established. Culms (the living poles) emerge as large as they will ever be in that first six-week spurt, then spend the next three years replacing sugars and water with silica and cellulose. Structurally, they are only useful after that third year, which is about when the culm is not needed by the plant.

Plentiful - Our current meager U.S. supply of timber-quality bamboo can increase manifold within a decade with species selection appropriate to the microclimate, water, and nutrient availability. For now, temperate varieties such as Moso are being imported from Asia. These are well suited to being grown here.

Local - Bamboo concentrates a large amount of fiber in a small land area, creating that rare situation in which a single person can be both producer and consumer of a building material. A bamboo builder is not dependent upon the whims of the marketplace and can create a long-term source of material. Few other materials, besides earth, can make such claims.

Waste-reducing - As is nature's general practice, nothing goes to waste. The leaves are high in nitrogen, making good feed for livestock. Any fallen leaf compost goes to fertilize the next generation. But, even more enticing are the statistics for pulling carbon out of the air, potentially reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse effect. According to the people at the Zero Emissions Research Institute (ZERI) who built the bamboo pavilion at the top of this page, a bamboo forest can sequester 17 times as much carbon as a typical tree forest. In a country where a third of the greenhouse gases are attributed to buildings, imagine a building material that, when used locally, not only doesn't contribute to global warming, it solves some small portion of the problem.

'Colonial' Thai layering/ventilation

1. old hospital thailand07, 2. Savannakhet, 3. Phayathai Palace, Bangkok, 4. vimanmak-15, 5. Vimanmek Mansion, Dusit, Bangkok, Thailand, 6. By the way - 20

A lot of times, there were really intricate wood carvings that worked as vents in the top of the wall, or transoms over doors...I can't find any of my pictures of these! :(

high-profile metal brise soleil / scrim examples...

San Francisco Federal Building
New York Times Building
Seattle Art Museum
Santa Monica Civic Center Parking
Caltrans District 7 Headquarters
Palácio Gustavo Capanema
8 woningen Kettingstraat
DeYoung Museum
166 Perry Street

Other Materials:
Agbar Tower, Barcelona (glass)
WEA Trust Office Building (fabric)

Now for some concrete (mostly mid century stuff) & living vegetation examples...I just have to walk across the street for those!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

External wall screens

This 'cool' project in Alabama has got me thinking about different types of screen around covered spaces- particularly mobile screens that can be used to change the degree of privacy, as well as reducing sunlight, wind and rain. Curtains/drapes? and/or sliding screens, and/or rotating slats? Roll up blinds, fold out awnings etc.

This is the Jim Thomson office building in BKK with some attractive sliding screens etc

This is in N BKK, near Don Meuang- fixed screens that soften the light and provide some security.

This is part of a rich Thai tradition- here's a louvred screen in a house near the river in BKK- maximum ventilation with total privacy.

I like the way these awnings soften the light. Can we find other examples
including screens or drapes that have a decorative/symbolic function?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Welcome spaces

Here are some examples of features that mark the transition from public to semi-private space, in a welcoming way:
A bench seat halfway up the entrance stair- a place to meet visitors- some can be invited further in, others perhaps not! Also a place for the householder to watch the world go by.
And a little roof sheltering water jars from the hot sun- offering visitors a drink as they enter the house, and a place to take off their sandals.
How can we maintain this culture of welcome in a modern setting?

Roof Images cont'd

Here's another example of a recent linear raised ridge vent roof.

And a stepped pyramid roof on an old farm building near Chiang Rai.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

roof images

I was out on the elevated highways yesterday, the perfect height for observing the tops of buildings---and snapped some quick photos of roofs. Here are a bunch of multi-level roofs which seem to help with making it look less like a warehouse. (although it doesn't look like any of them are actually using the architecture for ventilation, sadly.) The pitch seems pretty steep. Another thing I've seen a lot, and I'm not sure what the actual construction is, is where the shingles/roofing sheets are bounded by a concrete ledge at the ridge and intersections that gives it a more finished look---and also a ton of added weight, I'm sure. The example below isn't the best, but you can kind of see what I am talking about at the far left hand corner of the green roof.We passed this temple under construction, which I thought was so interesting:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wall boarding

Here's another interesting material: Shera board- details at
I've used this in CNX for fascias, soffits, external wall cladding etc.
In their on line catalogue they also give details of a calcium silicate board for ceilings, partitions and floor systems, but it would be good to compare the costs in Thailand of this against gypsum board.

Sheet roof materials

Check out Corroshield Kool at

They do asbestos free profiled roofing sheeting in 3 colours with some interesting cladding options, including profiled louvres that can be used for side ventilation and diffused daylighting; also vented ridges, ventilation 'rollers', translucent lighting sheets and other accessories.

An alternative is Onduline, a French product made under license in Penang- not sure whether this is sold in TH.

This seems an appropriate technology for CTS, but how to avoid it all looking like a factory/warehouse?


ooooo...look what I found...

I'm going to have to go check these out:


Heierarchy of Space

These images are from a photo-collection entitled "Vanishing Bangkok." I just wanted to write a little bit on the heierarchy of space in Thai buildings. We spoke about the way in which this mirrors Thai society in your experience with the printing house---that the manager is supposed to be above her subordinates literally as well as figuratively. (though it seems this is not a hard and fast rule, as I have inquired of my husband from which floors the dean of engineering and the university president preside, and neither is at the top. Perhaps because of heat-accumulation!)
But anyway, another way in which ordering of spaces is significant--and common throughout the kingdom is in the transition from public to private space. Similar to the need for a gradient of light from the outdoors to indoors, Thai buildings seem to begin by being very open to the outsider, and then become increasingly more intimate. It can be seen in the procession of ground space-stairs-gate-verandah in traditional houses, or in the movement from central meeting space to covered walkway to classroom in schools. The place where it is most clearly seen is in the shophouse (a legacy from Chinese immigrants.) Most have completely open fronts facing a public street (though that is changing now with the prevalence of air-conditioning in shops) that serve as both buisiness and personal one moves back into the building, it becomes more and more family space...with the kitchen in the very back, and stairs leading to family sleeping space. The way in which the public and private lives of families share the same space/objects seems liberating...and there are still boundaries in place that preserve privacy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Daylight in Thai buildings

Is it fair to say that most traditional Thai buildings (temples, houses etc) have dark interiors? Maybe buildings were seen as shelters from excessively bright light, as well as from rain, wind and the heat of the sun. When was glass introduced into Thai building?- before this windows were closed with shutters, keeping out most of the daylight.

Interiors that are relatively dark can be pleasant enough, but increase the risk of glare- as the eye adjusts to the low level of illumination inside any direct contact with direct light will produce the sensation of glare. So transitions from inside to outside are important, through verandas etc. Daylight can also be softened/diffused by using lattice and other types of screens, which can be highly decorative (see picture of house in Lopburi).

The size and direction of the light source are critical- diffused daylight coming from large areas and from different directions will reduce the sensation of glare. Direct sunlight will give much more glare. Interiors which give sensations of glare also need more artificial lighting to make them comfortable. But large openings for daylighting can be a security risk, tho this can be mitigated by putting them out of reach at high level.

Contrasts of colour and reflectance of adjoining surfaces can also add to the sensation of glare. The range of colours in Thai traditional architecture was quite limited, and tended to be on the warm side- creams, yellow, ochres, terracotta, gold etc. Are there strong associations linked to different colours in Thai building, in a similar way to clothing?

What other factors should be considered to develop an approach to lighting and colour in a new building? Here are some tentative 'patterns':
-Light from opposite sides of a space
-Avoidance of direct sunlight in interiors
-Direct daylight diffused by lattice screens, shutters, window jambs etc
-Light coloured surfaces next to daylight openings
-Transition spaces between inside and outside to reduce sudden changes in light levels
-Spaces narrow enough to ensure that the range of daylight levels is limited to what is comfortable.

Alternative Roof Forms for large Thai buildings

Hi Valerie,
Thanks so much for the solar model studies. I think this whole question of an appropriate roof form is going to be a major challenge for us. Here are some preliminary thoughts:
- not very Thai, but are there precedents?
- lighter loads on the structure per m2
- shorter columns
- greater wind uplift
- greater risk of leaks
- more Thai, greater 'presence'
- scope for attics/mezzanine floors within roof space
- High walls or windows under high roof eaves (in gable walls, or high walls under mono-pitch roofs), adding cost and maintenance issues, but enabling better high level ventilation and daylight.
- Greater overhang and/or sun screens required on north side (assuming this is the higher
side in a mono-pitched structure) to protect facade from direct sunlight
- larger cross-walls required, with greater cost, need for piers or other stiffening
- design of roof eaves on high and low sides of monopitch roofs to reduce wind turbulence and encourage cross ventilation.
- what is the optimum pitch of a monopitch roof to encourage cross-ventilation? This will need to take account of different conditions at different times of day and year. How is the 'stack effect' of such a roof reduced by thermal insulation in the roof? Maybe it's important to distinguish between quilt insulation and foil insulation (ie reduce UV transmission
rather than conducted heat).
-how is cross-ventilation effected by the width of a building, relative size of windward and leeward ventilation openings etc?
-How many of these variables can be tested by computer modelling?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Excerpt from "Lost Japan" by Alex Kerr

David, this reminded me of what you described happening in Singapore (and Thailand as well.)

"A Japanese friend once said to me, 'I always associated old Japanese buildings with an image of poverty. When I saw Tenmangu I realized for the first time that one could live well in an old house.' The key o the destruction of the city of Kyoto lies in this comment. In the eyes of the city administration, rows of old wooden houses look 'poor'; they are an embarrassment, and should be removed quickly. This is not only true of Kyoto-the same feeling lurks deep in the hearts of people all over Japan. If this were not so, the rampant destruction which has occurred here would have sparked a strong public outcry; but until recently there has been hardly a peep of protest."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thinking About Radiant Cooling & De-humidification

It appears that geothermal technology is already being used in Thailand, and using radiant cooling through pipes in the floor/walls/ceiling is one way to complete the system. The water supply from geothermal pipes can also be connected into a more standard HVAC system. This Wikipedia article on heat pumps has a good summary.

A problem with radiant cooling is surface condensation. It is not clear if this has been addressed in the systems cited above. This house, which uses radiant floor heating and cooling, also closely regulates the floor temperature and uses "dry air delivered along its floors at ~68 degrees f all year-round (cf.: displacement ventilation). It uses a dehumidification coil and reheat coil in summer, and a heating coil in winter. In summer, the flow rate is sized for adequate dehumidification and fresh air" Are there less intensive ways to control condensation and humidity that would be viable in Thailand?

There are currently 2 ways to dehumidify air in buildings 1.)
condense the moisture onto a cold surface (the same process that presents a problem with radiant cooling!) This is how air conditioning systems and small free standing dehumidifiers work...and the collected water can be re-used on site. 2.) machines that use desiccants (solid or liquid) to remove water vapor from the air--these are the same substances found in those little packets you find in your shoebox.

This is a simplified explanation. The following links are helpful:

HPAC Engineering

World Changing
Culture Kitchen

EMI Village Church Prototype Design, Chiang Mai

From the Engineering Ministries International website:

Project Update

The first church using the eMi design has been constructed! This church is located on the Pastor’s Training Center and will be used by Chiang Mai New Testament Church. Thailand Ambassadors of Christ also is planning a training conference for the fall that will use the new facility. Pastor’s coming to the conference will receive bible training as well as be able to see a church similar to what might be built in their own village.

Project Scope
Thailand Ambassadors For Christ has been reaching out to the hill tribe people of the Himalayas for over 30 years under its director Luke Bee. They would like to develop a prototypical village church design much like what eMi has done with our India Village Church Project. They have funding through another partnering organization, provided we can produce a design that can be built for about $5000.

This eMi team will address a church design immediately on their existing property in Chiang Mai where they already have begun foundations. However, the actual village churches will be in a variety of terrains and the team will visit numerous villages to study the various constraints, requirements, and possibilities of site development.

The team will do a feasibility study to determine the best type of building, construction plans for the building, materials lists and quantities, and a detailed plan for how to construct it.

Another outreach that they have begun is likely to become a future eMi project: Larger church/orphanage buildings in larger cities that can accommodate up to 40 orphans and a congregation of up to 150 people. Having already established its first church/orphanage in a new building built in 2003 in Chiang Mai that can house up to 80 girls, it is likely that our team will assess this and begin preliminary investigation for it as well.

Culture & Conditions image sets

These are some images I put together a while back for a project looking at Thai culture and current conditions .

This first set is cataloging different ways in which mobility and pragmatism are celebrated in Thai culture. People move around a lot here! It used to be on the waterways, but is increasingly on land...and so you see foodstands on motorbikes and all manner of creative solutions for getting the job done. Spaces change from day to night, or based on the weather.
This next set explores some common elements of Thai traditional house architecture that have already been mentioned here.
Looking at the intersections of water and the built environment.
Thinking about possible materials that are very common in Thailand that could be re-imagined as building materials using existing techniques. Billboard tarps, tires, license plates, etc.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Materials Inspiration from Rural Studio

Rural Studio (Auburn University, Alabama, USA) has been doing some great work, and their innovative re-use of materials provides lots of food for thought. Here are buildings that use tires, and car windows...and some other cool projects.