With shade from bamboo and insulation crafted from coconut fibre, a new sustainable housing design idea tailored to Cambodia could transform low-cost living in the capital, its creators hope.
At the opening night of Our City Festival, Swedish architecture company Tengbom, and local counterpart The Room Design Studio showcased the new housing unit concept using a 3D-printed model.
While the project has yet to secure funding, architects hope to find a local NGO that will support the project.
Nina Appelin, the branch manager for Room Design Studio, said the ready-made 10-by-2-metre units employed a “Lego block” principle, which meant that they were easy for landowners to assemble on vacant blocks of land, and then disassemble and move when the land is being developed or sold.
“Our project tries to deal specifically with creating a way to use some of the many vacant sites where the owners are waiting for prices of land to rise. We hope to provide a system that can be easily adapted to the specific site and be reused in a different context later on.”
The design is also intended to accommodate other property-related issues relevant to Phnom Penh, with the inclusion of a shallow water basin and the use of paved grass to ensure drainage during the wet season, as well as the use of solar cells on roofs facing south for affordable electricity.
The materials will all be sourced locally, according to Appelin, who said the architects were investigating other sustainable projects in and around Phnom Penh to determine the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective options available.
“We hope to be able to use a compound of cement and coconut coir for facade cladding, bamboo for shading and a compound of recycled building materials such as bricks and roof tiles with cement for the bases of the buildings,” Appelin said.
At the Our City Festival exhibition, a 3D model accompanied drawings and visualisations of the project. Hero Arc, a 3D-printing enterprise, was employed to make the model.
Ki Chong, co-owner of Hero Arc, said: “I was very intrigued when I heard their idea for the units and thought it was great that an innovative idea like Tengbom’s compact living and an innovative technology like 3D printing could be brought together and exhibited in Cambodia.”
Following the exhibit, Tengbom and The Room Design Studio intend to develop their project through further analysis and social studies, though the timeline and source of funding for the project has yet to be determined.
Howric Ghotbi, chairman of British Khmer Engineering and Construction, said the moveable function of the units could have great potential in the Phnom Penh housing market. “It might work for the owners of the land who want to build something that they can move in the future, somewhere else, but they don’t lose the construction cost on these houses.”
There is a need for more sustainable and resourceful construction in Phnom Penh, Ghotbi added.
“At the moment they are using old technology in Phnom Penh, actually its too expensive, and it does damage the environment, they use a lot of concrete, steel. It’s not cheap.”