Green Architecture is UnderRated – A Case Study on Solaris by TR Hamzah and Ken Yeang

I said Green Architecture is UnderRated. It’s so true. Let me tell you, well or ask you, What is really Green Architecture? I don’t believe it for now. Not the concept of it but the term, it sounds catchy but it’s been widely altered today, same goes for the term Sustainable design…. I will still just use Bioclimatic building term by TR Hamzah. So the story is such, the rise of so-called “Green Architecture” begins in the last decade I guess, but really it’s just the fact that people want cheap buildings, and to be built faster to save money and there you go, designers not being ethical or developers just want fast money and took out the simple facts of environmentally sustainable design. So they brand themselves GREEN, let me ask you, how many products today want to be claimed green? A lot, and furthermore you don’t really know if they are. It’s always about the market anyways.

The typical “Green Architecture” we learn in classrooms is pretty back to what a 10 years old child can draw seriously. Adding up a solar panel? Planting some trees? Adding sunshades? Water recycling? or some good ventilation? let’s talk about a product designed by an Architect who is into his own theory of bioclimatic design, Ken Yeang with his latest project Solaris at Singapore. I could write more about Ken Yeang as I have been researching his background and his works past few days and also knowing that his Solaris Project is under ZahaHadid’s Masterplan.

In my opinion, his theory isn’t really some big new thing but over the past 40 years, he’s been developing into the field and expertise in knowing some irrefutable calculation on effectiveness by every aspect, let’s go to the even basic of knowing what plants you should use. Do you notice his building doesn’t really fancy SolarPanel or WindTurbine or whatever technology? it’s back to the very basic Passive Design.

SOLARIS has been certified BCA GreenMark Platinum, the highest possible green certification granted by Singapore’s sustainable building benchmark (eg. LEED, GBI, GreenStar, BREEAM, etc..). The building’s overall energy consumption represents a reduction of over 36% compared to local precedents and the high-performance façade has an External Thermal Transfer Value (ETTV) of 39 W/m2. With over 8,000 m2 of landscaping, Solaris also introduces vegetation which exceeds the area of the building’s original site.

Solaris will comprise two tower blocks separated by a grand, naturally-ventilated central atrium. Office floors will be linked by a series of sky bridges spanning the atrium. The project will become a vibrant focal point for the one-north community through the introduction of open interactive spaces and the creative use of skylights and courtyards for natural light and ventilation. A landscaped ramp forms a 1.5-metre linear park with escalating roof gardens and sky terraces that connect the ground level and basement. The overall vegetated area in the building will be over 110% of the site area.

Here I would like to credit for some detail write up about SOLARIS’s ecological approach.

  1. Continuous Perimeter Landscaped Ramp – An uninterrupted 1.5-kilometre long ecological armature connects the adjacent one-north Park at ground level and the basement Eco-cell with the cascading sequence of roof-gardens at the building’s highest levels. The ramp has a minimum width of 3 meters. Maintenance of the spiral landscaped ramp is achieved via a parallel pathway which allows for servicing of the continuous planters without requiring access from internal tenanted spaces. The pathway also serves as a linear park in future that stretches all the way from the ground plane to the uppermost roof areas. The continuity of the landscaping is a key component of the project’s ecological design concept as it allows for fluid movement of organisms and plant species between all vegetated areas within the building, enhancing biodiversity and contributing to the overall health of these ecosystems. The ramp, with its deep overhangs and large concentrations of shade plants, is also one element in a comprehensive strategy for the ambient cooling of the building facade. This eco-infrastructure provides social, interactive and creative environments for the occupants of the building’s upper floors while balancing the inherent inorganics of the built-form with a more organic mass.
  2. Solar Shaft – A diagonal shaft that cuts through the upper floors of Tower A allows daylight to penetrate deep into the building’s interior. Internal lighting operates on a system of sensors which reduces energy use by automatically turning off lights when adequate daylighting is available. Landscaped Terraces within the solar shaft bring added quality to adjacent spaces and enhance views up into the building from the street below.
  3. Eco-cell – Located at the building’s northeast corner where the spiral ramp meets the ground, the Eco-cell allows vegetation, daylight and natural ventilation to extend into the car-park levels below.  The lowest level of the Eco-cell contains the storage tank and pump room of the rainwater recycling system.
  4. Naturally, Ventilated and Day Lit Grand Atrium – A public plaza between the two tower blocks provides a space for communal activities and creative performances. This naturally-ventilated ground floor operates as a mixed-mode (non-air conditioned) zone with an operable glass-louvered roof over the atrium providing protection from the elements while enabling full ventilation when needed. CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations were used to analyse thermal conditions and wind speed within the atrium. The results of these studies were used to optimise the atrium facade design to improve air flow and enhance comfort levels.
  5. Pocket Park / Plaza – Ground level landscaping, linking to one-north Park across the street, allows for cross ventilation of the ground-floor plaza and provides a venue for social/interactive events
  6. Extensive Sun-Shading Louvers – The project’s climate-responsive façade design originated with analysis of the local sun-path. Singapore is at the equator and the sun-path is almost exactly east-west. Facade studies analysing the solar-path determined the shape and depth of the sunshade louvres, which also double as light shelves. This solar shading strategy further reduces heat transfer across the building’s lower double-glazed perimeter facade, contributing to an extremely low External Thermal Transfer Value (ETTV) of 39 W/m2. In conjunction with the spiral landscaped ramp, sky gardens, and deep overhangs, the sunshade louvres also assist in establishing comfortable micro-climates in habitable spaces along the building’s exterior. The combined linear length of the building’s sunshade louvres exceeds 10km.
  7. Roof Gardens and Corner Sky Terraces – Vertical landscaping acts as a thermal buffer and creates areas for relaxation and event spaces. These extensive gardens allow building occupants to interact with nature and also offers opportunities to experience the external environment and enjoy views of the treetops of one-north Park. As it reaches each corner of the building the spiral ramp expands into generous double-volume sky terraces. Upon completion, the sum of the project’s vegetated areas will exceed the footprint of the site on which the building sits.
  8. Rainwater Harvesting/Recycling – The building’s extensive landscaped areas are irrigated via a large-scale rainwater recycling system. Rainwater is collected from the drainage downpipes of the perimeter landscaped ramp and from the roof of tower B via Siphonic drainage. It is stored in rooftop tanks and at the lowest basement level, beneath the Eco-cell. A storage capacity of over 700 m3 allows for over five days of irrigation via recycled water between rainfalls.

Credits to Skyrise Greenery Awards, these templates are good enough to make you understand the detailings and specifications =)

So yeah, Green Architecture is UnderRated. it’s not about putting some solar panels, installing some expensive EE gadgets… Environmental sustainability architecture has been around ever since ages, just the current capitalism and marketing took everything cheap and people see air conditioners as the “solution” and things just never got right after that, Ken Yeang has been doing this since his graduation from AA and after his Masters in Ecology Design or something like that. I just hope that Architecture students today, even with their education on all these basics will go to work in the end and getting spin around in the world of supply and demands. As Architects we must remember we are here to consult and give our best and we are one of the most potential careers to save the world. Ken Yeang is listed as World’s Top 50 people that can change the world at HERE.

And to end this post, would like to share my lecturer’s quote.

‎”Under the shade of tree is where one feels free in experiencing more by having less” Prof AR Abdul Malek, USM.

and who says as Architects we can’t have the mission of saving trees by developing a place? A benchmark for Environmental Concern Architecture is to achieve more green area than previous, let’s say 150% of the site area? SOLARIS showed it’s possible. why not!