Tessellar Blog

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Better, affordable alternatives to terrace houses and high-rise blocks

The per capita income of Malaysia has increased 30 times since independence, but as people moved from kampong houses to terrace houses and now to high-rise, the quality of the home environment is going in the opposite direction. At the same time, houses are getting more and more expensive.

This book is about a solution to those problems: a cost-saving way of improving the social quality of our homes and neighbourhoods.

As cities grow, rising prosperity fuels the need for new housing: but the supply of land is limited. Where land is cheap, people can afford to build bungalows. But as the cost of land increases, people build instead semi-detached houses, terrace houses, low-rise, or high-rise flats.

Also, with increasing prosperity, car-ownership has spiralled, not only congesting main arteries but also dominating neighbourhood streets, making the streets less safe and discouraging walking, cycling, outdoor play and casual social interaction. Compounded with “stranger-danger”, children are cooped up inside. With few people and activities in the streets, neighbourhoods become socially poorer.

Alas, terrace houses in the cities and suburbs of Malaysia are already out of the financial reach of most people.  They must make do with high-rise housing, which has long been associated with even bigger social problems.

Is it inevitable that homes continue to become less affordable and neighbourhoods become more sterile? Are there any design alternatives to terrace houses and high-rise blocks that can make housing socially better and affordable?

These are the questions that my colleagues and I have been occupied with for more than twenty years, in practice and in academia.  It started out with just a few people and a central idea: 

Providing homes with private and shared gardens in front of them can promote a better social environment, and this can be done in a cost-effective way.

I am a practising architect that sees architecture as tool to solve problems. I also do research, adopting an empirical scientific approach to design. And I am eager to realize my ideas: the R&D work has not only resulted in papers but also patents and projects.

This book, offers the optimistic prospect that courtyard homes - with private and shared gardens in front of them – can create an environment is that more community-friendly; that these courtyard neighbourhoods can be created in both low-rise as well as high-rise situations; that these houses and neighbourhoods can be designed in a cost-efficient way so that these courtyard homes can be affordable to as many as possible.

Several affordable low rise projects that have already been completed or are in the pipeline. We are now extending the ideas first developed for low-rise to various types of high-rise housing projects, and trying to commercialize them.

In the following chapters, these projects will be featured one by one. Interspersed with this catalogue will be a discussion of the ideas that make these new proposals different from conventional ones and reasons for them.

This book is written mainly for people in the housing industry in Malaysia who are interested in new ideas to improve the urban environment - developers, government officers, policy makers, consultants, academics and students. My hope is that the reader, after starting this book with a healthy dose of scepticism, would become enthusiastic about new possibilities.

In about 50 pages (30 blog posts) - I will share with you why I am confident that courtyard housing can alleviate many of the social defects of low and high-rise housing in a way that is cost effective. I believe that improving the social quality of the design of our homes and neighbourhoods can positively help the Malaysian housing industry provide better homes to more people.

Back to Table of Contents

Please help me proof-read this book. Just point out the errors in the comments section (look at the bottom left hand side of each post). 
I'll post this book to the first reader who spots 5 mistakes...!


JoAnn Schultz said...

1. In Chapter 3, "Overcoming the problem of innovation in housing": "The developer is perceived as the main mover in the value chain, but, the housing market is very fragmented." The comma after the "but" is extraneous.

2. In Chapter 5, “Reducing the Cost of Infrastructure”: “Given that Metro Kajang is a very experienced developer. Obviously, a lot of effort went into revenue out of every single square foot.” The “Given…” sentence is incomplete. And the “Obviously…” sentence is missing the word “maximizing”, as in “…effort went into maximizing revenue…”

3. Also in Chapter 5, under the heading “Drains”, we have: “…There is a 10% saving in the length of 0.6m wide drains, a 57% increase in the 0.9m wide drains and a 58% reduction in the 1.2m wide drains.” “Saving” should be plural, “savings”. There are several instances of this error throughout the chapter (and in other chapters).

4. Chapter 14, “Comparison with Singapore High-Rise Layouts”. There is a comma missing between “such” and “any”, in “As such any amenities for social use found on the ground floors or on intermediate floors of these blocks were not considered.

5. Also Chapter 14, same page as above. "...All the examples we looked at were of single blocks, except for Pinnacle @ Duxton project, which comprised seven blocks connected bottom, middle and top floors." "...seven blocks connected bottom, middle and top floors" should have "connecting" instead of "connected".

6. Again, same page as above. "How is the High-Rise Honeycomb example compared with the others?" This should read "How does..." instead of "How is...".

7. Chapter 18, "Low-Cost 5-storey Flats". ..."Since the 1980’s, Malaysia developers were required to set aside 30% of the houses they build to be low cost houses priced below RM25,000." "Malaysia" should be "Malaysian".

8. Same page as above. "In the latter part of the 1990’s the federal government also introduced a raft of other new measures to boost the building housing for the poor..." This should read "... the building of new house for the poor..." (note the "of").

Mazlin Ghazali said...

Dear JoAnn, thanks for your corrections. I owe you a copy of the book. I have not been able to finish it in February but I think the new work that I've just done is worth the wait.
I'm excited about it and a post about "high-density medium-rise Honeycomb apartment" will be ready anytime now. Thanks again.
Please email me your address.