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All Shades of Green

Would like to introduce «..one of the 50 people who could save the planet..» according to The Guardian newspaper – Dr. Ar. Ken Yeang.

You will ask why. And I will tell you! Ken Yeang is the ‘father’ of a sustainable bioclimatic building, he is both an architect and ecologist. Known for his authentic innovative ecology-based signature architecture and masterplans that have a distinctive verdant green aesthetic, that are beyond conventional accreditation. And he is the world’s leading green skyscraper architect. And here is one more question: how is it possible to mix green and urban. But in Yeang’s view, the ubiquity of the skyscraper is a foregone conclusion in a rapidly urbanizing world, and he is on the way of improving it making it environmentally sound. So he uses walls of plants, photovoltaic roofs, scallop-shaped sunshades, advanced ventilation and systems collecting all water and breezes possible. The idea is to make buildings run as complete ecosystems with little external energy supply. Before designing the building, they try to understand how these spaces benefit from local flora and fauna. So in result, they can support biodiversity and establish the right conditions so that these different habitats survive over time. In other words, everything, from the skyscraper’s shape to its orientation to how vegetation is used, will all affect how sustainable it is.

“If you don’t imitate nature you’re going against it»

Ken Yeang

And I’m glad to have a possibility to ask Dr. Ken Yeang few questions about his vision on so popular thing as travelling and our main goals in preserving the purity of our nature. 

Anna Popruga: Today a lot of people are travelling around the world and a lot of them are already interested in more than popular city destinations. So they go deeply into the country to catch the wildlife, traditional style etc. And in short time such places become more integrated with more facilities and infrastructure. How can we involve local companies in way of ecological architecture?

Ken Yeang: Humans society must change its mindset and worldview to be nature-centric, or more specifically ecology-centric. As ecological architecture is ultimately an ethical issue, whereupon Involving local companies to think in way of ecological architecture requires our influencing public ethics. The way is through public education and communication. The designer can assist in this endeavour by showing leadership by example, such as showing how ecological architecture can benefit humanity and benefit the natural environment.

A.P.: And how could it be more approachable to locals?

K. Y.: We need to educate and show the locals that we need a world with clean air, clean water, clean land, healthy ecosystems, clean built environments that enable a healthy and happy human society to thrive. Specifically, clean air means an aerial environment that is free from pollution by hydrocarbons, sulphur oxides, lead, and other contaminants. Clean water means an aquatic and marine environment that is free from contamination by chemicals, pathogenic microorganisms and from unrecycled disused items such as human society’s debris. Clean land means land that is a terrestrial environment that has healthy productive soils with minimal contact with microbial or metazoal parasites and pathogens and without harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation. Healthy ecosystems are ecosystems where their ecological integrity, carrying capacities and assimilative capabilities remain intact and are infinitely capable of providing ecosystem services. A clean built environment is one whose systems and processes do not contaminate or do irreversible harm to nature and to human society, and whose production and operational systems are not deleterious to the ecosystems. The materials logistics are cyclic that closes the materials loop where at the exhaustion of their useful life, all the un-reuseable materials are transformed in a form that enables their replenishment by their benign return back to nature. A healthy and happy society is one in which its inhabitants and its social-economic-political-institutional systems and ways of life are at ONE WITH NATURE in a harmonious integral condition of well-being with opportunities for physical activity and mental respite. The ideal is a partnership with nature is a state of stasis that is dynamic as natural systems are not static but constantly changing. The ambition of ecological design is to achieve as close a fit as possible with an ecological utopia, which I call Ecotopia.  This must be the goal of all of humanity’s intervention on nature.

A.P.: Do You have plans to build a hotel in a remote place following all of Your bioclimatic rules?

K.Y.: Yes I am working on a few. However we need to be careful where we spatially locate the hotel (that do not devastate the habitats), with what is its content (ie. its materials logistics and embodied energy), and how it is operated (e.g. what are its emissions, discharges and wastes), what are its inputs (eg. of food, energy and people coming and going). and what happens to it at the end of its useful life (e.g ‘closing the materials loop’).

A.P.: What place attracts you most for the potential construction of such hotel and why?

K.Y.: I like places by the sea as I love the sound of waves and birds.

Great news we have, so later I will show you where those hotels will be.

A.P.: Tell us a little bit about your first ideas.

K.Y.: My first ideas was on the need for our built environment to emulate and replicate nature. This was an essay I wrote back in the early 70’s on the use of biological analogies for design.

A.P.: Have You always worried about the future and ecology of cities? Perhaps someone influenced you in your past years.

K.Y.: Yes, I started to be concerned about designing for a durable, sustainable and resilient future when I started work on my doctorate on ecological design and planning back in at Cambridge University (UK) in the 70’s. Those were the days of ‘flower power’ – I was called a hippie by my colleagues at Wolfson College. My influences include the biologist C. H. Waddington, Ludvig Von Bertanlanffy (who developed ‘General Systems Theory), and the landscape architect, Ian McHarg (who developed the ecological land use planning technique.

Dr. Yeang has completed over 12 bioclimatic eco high-rise buildings, several thousand terraced houses, over two million sq. ft. of interior design spaces, numerous eco-master plans and eco-city designs, and has overall completed over a hundred building projects of all types worldwide bringing him into focus in the famous architects’ list. Yeang lectures extensively in over 30 countries at conferences and schools of architecture on his ideas and work on ecological design and masterplanning. He wrote few books and received over 40 awards in recent years.

Yeang’s operating headquarters Hamzah and Yeang is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with other offices in London and Beijing, China.

His key built works include the Roof-Roof House (Malaysia), Menara Mesiniaga (an IBM franchise) (Malaysia), National Library Singapore (Singapore), Solaris (Singapore with CPG Consult), Spire Edge Tower (India with Abraxas Architects), DiGi Data Centre (Malaysia), Ganendra Art House (Malaysia), Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Extension (under Llewelyn Davies Yeang, UK), the Genome Research Building (Hong Kong with Andrew Lee King Fun & Associates).

It was a pleasure to receive the answers to such vital questions for society and humanity. I hope they will lead you to the right conclusions and thoughts, inspire you to live ecologically.

Thanks to Dr. Ar. Ken Yeang.

Published in: Interview