18th July 2019

AR. Dr.Tan Loke Mun In Conversation with BFM

AR. Dr. Tan Loke Mun

“We explore the role of steel in designing and building a green and sustainable homes as well as whether it is affordable to own one.”

AR. Dr.Tan Loke Mun In Conversation with BFM

AR. Dr. Tan Loke Mun, a renowned architect who is the Principal of Dr. Tan LM Architect, Director of ArchiCentre Sdn Bhd, Founder and Director of DTLM Design Group; Director of KLAF 2019 was recently featured on BFM 89.9 the Property Show on the subject of Green and Sustainable Home and how it is becoming more and more mainstream. We explore the role of steel in designing and building a green and sustainable homes as well as whether it is affordable to own one.

AR. Dr. Tan Loke Mun, a renowned architect who is the Principal of Dr. Tan LM Architect, Director of ArchiCentre Sdn Bhd, Founder and Director of DTLM Design Group; Director of KLAF 2019. He was featured on BFM 89.9 the Property Show on Friday, July 12, 2019.

As the subject of Green and Sustainable home is becoming more and more mainstream, we explore the role of steel in designing and building a green and sustainable homes as well as whether it is affordable to own one.

What makes a home green and sustainable when it comes to design and what are some of the characteristics?

Being in a tropical country, energy efficiency and a cooler home comes to mind, better indoor qualities and lastly having access to facilities like public transport and other amenities.

What are some of the features to identify with the naked eye when trying to search for an eco-friendly home?

Look for insulation as most heat gain in the tropical countries comes from the roof. Landed property such as bungalow or semi-d, 60% – 70% of the heat gain comes through the roof. As for terrace house probably about 80% of heat gain as the neighbors have already insulated the sides. Greatest energy use in homes today is for air conditioning. The main thing is to keep the heat out of the house, insulate it by having large roofs and orientate it in the right direction, north or south preferably. Have less windows on the east and west it helps to reduce energy and cooling cost tremendously.

How about condominiums?

For apartments and condominiums if you choose it facing West or East, you will face high electric bills. People try to find apartment, predominantly living areas that face north and south and can check the glass. Now heat also comes through the wall especially the glaze. You can get the glass that allows daylight to come but reduces some of the heat gain. There are double and triple glaze units, which are rare in Malaysia especially for apartments. The higher the glaze the better.

For yourself, you are particular with your choice of steel, how is steel important component in an eco-friendly homes?

In the steel industry / products, more than 90% comes from recycle content. Throw steel out and it will be collected almost immediately. The demand for steel is great as it has a high recyclable content and an extremely high lifespan and can be re-used after. Compared to plastic, which only has one lifespan.

I started using steel because I needed a material to cover a huge roof house which is a GBI platinum rated house, which is known in the industry as S11 house. I have a huge roof to insulate. I used a metal deck to cover it and put in a lot of insulation. I looked at steel a lot more when I started doing the Great Building Index for Malaysia.

Misconception about steel as a good conductor?

Steel is a good conductor it does not help to insulate the roof. It comes in many different colours. For roofing we prefer to use light colour as it reflects heat. Heats come in 3 ways: 1. Transfer from conductivity, 2. Convection 3. Reflectivity. Choosing a light color roof is the best thing to do as it throws out the heat. Insulation will prevent the home from being too heated.

Besides steel, what are the alternatives that are currently being used in building eco-friendly homes?

Many materials are being used to create a green home. Steel is just one of the materials that can be used and it can be recycled or re-used. Materials such as recyclable materials can be used eg. APW that gives it a good style and is beneficial for nature. Other green materials would include materials that do not emit gasses when it touches the UV light, such as paint, which is why we recommend people to use water-based paints and there are now specific paints for outdoors which can reflect the heat to the extends of 3 degrees differentials. Steel is not the only material for green homes. It is a popular material because of its high recyclable content and its ability to reuse.

Another misconception – is cost of steel high?

Cost comparison, must compare with something – higher than what. But, steel is more of a base material used for structure, cladding, for finishes and multiple areas. Steel has interesting characteristic which is strong, tensile and not compressive. Steel is a tensile material and its strength should be exploited. For example, can use steel to develop suspending stairs instead of using heavy concrete. Steel has huge amount of recycle content, and high uses and functions. Once a house is demolished in 50 or 100 years, steel can still be used.

Lot of decision making comes down to cost – Is this perception true?

Last week, we celebrated Green Building Index in Malaysia (GBI)’s 10th anniversary. Why green buildings because buildings give out 50% of green gases to the environment. After 10 years, we discovered that the cost of going green is actually a myth.

We have certified close to 230 millions square feet or 500 buildings after 10 years and the additional costs of going green is only 1-5%. Besides that, if we choose the platinum rated which is super energy, efficient & cool house, the average is only 1% to 3%. It can be said the greener you want the higher the price but not more than 5%.

Is it the same case for residential or landed homes? Do you have to pay premium to own a an eco-friendly house?

After 10 years of working on certified homes with professionals and public, they say it is expensive, which is it is not true. All our statistics show that if you plan from day 1 during construction to make it green or environmentally friendly building, it won’t cost much difference if start early with right orientation, right glass right materials, good roof, good insulation in the roof. However, if you do it midway, later after the house is built, it will cost a lot more to replace and redo things.

Based on today’s trend and the property market today, do you say that a lot of them adopted the ecofriendly design?

Recently celebrated KL Architecture Festival, book was published on the best work done by architects over the last 10 years and at the same time we celebrated the 10 years of Green Building Index in Malaysia, that was started by PAM and ACM. Interestingly, in the book about recent Malaysian Architecture, we found new trends and enormous number of green building projects. It shows a new trend that is skewed towards green building. This is definitely due to the green awareness. Green is not style, not a trend to follow, but it is the right thing to do

Comes down to cost – Is there a certain lifestyle needed from Malaysians such as directions to sustain and live in a green home?

Personally, I have solar panels in my home. I encourage people to do it as when I did it was expensive around RM 22k and now it is RM 7k. The payback and benefits are a no brainer as it is the right thing to do. But, it depends on the government as well and the subsidies. Currently, we see subsidies on every day necessities but going green needs it more. Water in a plastic bottle at a petrol station costs more than petrol. There is no such thing as free water, only because it’s subsidized, it doesn’t seem too bad. Level of consumption will then be more careful.

Hopefully this convinces more people to go green and choose eco-friendly system.

Many statistics are available at the PAM center. The building is GBI Platinum rated as well. More information can be obtained from PAM or GBI to see how much and what is needed and the enormous savings from a green home.

As an architect, are there restrictions to home designs? – Disney castle – can it be sustainable?

If you start from step 1 and you build the home as a green home from the start, from the foundation, then it can be constructed as a green building, irrespective of the design.

We talked about benefits about ecofriendly lifestyle, and home purchase. What are the challenges homeowners face?

If it is a new house, the myth is expensive. If it is an old house, the people are not informed that it is green. The Real Estate industry needs a good kick in the butt as to inform homebuyers how green a home is. In the UK and Australia, ready-made houses state the energy rating of efficiency level and Malaysia needs to start implementing green or eco house system as it will help and show homebuyers the best options. We need to show how energy efficient it is and the real estate industry needs to start this.

Will having a rating for existing homes help?

It will help a lot and it will give home owners all the information. It is similar to buying a second hand car where you will want all the information possible before purchasing.