Where the heart is: making homes sustainable

Where the heart is: making homes sustainable

The winners of the 2013 Cambodia Sustainable Housing International Design Competition held by Building Trust International, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia and Karuna Cambodia talk about their finished designs.

This design includes an area usable as a shophouse.
This design includes an area usable as a shophouse. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Wet + Dry House by Visionary Design Development Pty Ltd (Australia)
Mary Ann Jackson: “Wet + Dry House was conceived to work beyond being merely an environmentally sustainable shelter from the elements to being a place providing a nurturing, economically and socially [sustainable] environment. A house that shelters its occupants from the trying local climatic conditions but also includes the ability, particularly important within the context of low-cost housing, to generate an income (from the shop) and be easily repaired and reconfigured in the future.

Also, Visionary Design Development is passionate about improving the accessibility of the built environment for everyone. Therefore, rather than elevating the entire house above all threat of flooding, the Wet + Dry House provides a deliberately staged response to potential ingress of water. The main living/front-of-house area floor level is designed to be just above the known annual flood level with the rear of the ground floor area set a little higher; in particularly bad years, residents can retreat to the upper level.

Conceptually ‘front-of-house’ was designed to keep the sense of community alive by symbolically opening the home to passing neighbours; a lifestyle common in Southeast Asia. This front porch culture makes the street alive and the neighbours part of the extended family. It also provides the ability for the house to function as a shophouse, thereby generating income for the family. Additionally, the large entry with a gentle ramp allows everyone: a person with a disability, a temporarily injured person, an elderly person or a mother with young children, to maneuver with ease.”

The family: Sai Saporn, a widow and mother of five who wanted to open a shop to provide income.

The house is mostly made of locally-sourced material.
The house is mostly made of locally-sourced material. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Open Embrace by Keith Greenwald and Lisa Ekle (USA)
Keith Greenwald: “Responding to the open ventilation needs of its tropical climate, the house offers a protected domestic realm that maintains flexibility between interior and exterior, private and social.

Clay brick piers anchor the ends of the house and contain all services for hygiene and nourishment. Between these bookends, an enclosure is wrapped in bamboo panels, with one end opening to a raised courtyard space. The act of raising the house to sustain the annual food cycle creates a shaded space below for daily activities, commerce and socializing.

The family living in the house.
The family living in the house. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The materials of the house are familiar and largely produced locally, stimulating economies and connecting communities.”

The family: Nov Borom, a 52-year-old widow and mother of five who wanted a house large enough for all her children to live in comfortably under the same roof.

This house includes an internal courtyard.
This house includes an internal courtyard. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Courtyard House by Jess Lumley and Alexander Koller (UK)
JESS LUMLEY: “We have noticed that Cambodians spend a lot of time in the shady space under their houses, protected but still engaged with the comings and goings of the street, and therefore we designed that the stilts would be high enough for being under, motorbikes and hammocks, but not too high to not feel cosy.

This design includes a shady area underneath.
This design includes a shady area underneath. PHOTO SUPPLIED

For the house above, we thought it was important to create differentiated areas for the family, for hanging out, sleeping, washing, cooking, and playing, etc., and all on a tight site. Also important was allowing natural ventilation to the enclosed living spaces. We therefore borrowed the idea of the internal courtyard – a strategy common in more built-up areas in Southeast Asia – and used a bridged courtyard to connect the upper spaces of the house, the family room and front verandah from the cooking and washing areas to the rear.

he brick wall along the boundary creates a natural fire break; we also envisaged that another house could be built up against it, therefore saving cost. The palm leaf matting and bamboo shutters are simple beautiful materials, but also ones that allow the house to breathe naturally and for a very pretty effect create fine patterns of lights and shade animating the interiors.”

The family: Sor Vann, her husband, son and newly born baby who wanted a home where they could raise livestock.

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