Emerging Architecture Awards

Commended December 2004

WoHa Designs

Fenestration system

WoHa adopted the motto transforming commercial pressures into environmental devices for their speculative residential tower block at no 1 Moulmein Rise in Singapore. In the tropical island state, air conditioning is the main consumer of energy and, as Singapore has no fossil resources, ways in which the electrical demands of internal climate control can be reduced are clearly extremely desirable. That is one of the commercial pressures confronted by Moulmein Rise. The other is that developers have found that there is a great public demand for traditional devices such as planters, bay windows and shading ledges. These are all exempt from development tax, but are saleable areas, and incorporating such elements can greatly add to the value of a house or flat. So the architects proposed to developers that a wall which incorporates such elements, and uses them to make a less energy demanding building, would be a very good idea. Construction costs were higher than usual, but incorporation of the sought-after devices more than compensated for additional cost and necessary expansion in dwelling size.
Four elements were identified as key components of the facade: horizontal brise-soleil, vertical perforated screens, planters and monsoon windows. They all provide shade, permit natural ventilation, and conceal air conditioning and washing hung out to dry. All add real and perceived space to the small flats (which are some 10 per cent larger than standard ones because of the devices). Of the four, monsoon windows are perhaps the most important, and are derived from vernacular Malay patterns. Their projecting bay with its openable horizontal flap allows natural ventilation even during heavy tropical storms. Three standard facade treatments were evolved, and were tested in computer models to test their potential for creating random patterns. In the event, because of the complexity of the facades, the contractor made some mistakes, creating a truly random pattern out of hidden order.
As the architects say, effective operable windows can contribute substantially to effective reduction in energy consumption. Air conditioning in tall buildings in the tropics will always be needed, but the jury was keen to commend the facade design because it offers an example that can be emulated or developed throughout the tropics.

WoHa Designs, Singapore
Project team
Wong Mun Summ, Richard Hassell, Gerry Richardson, Sim Choon Heok, Punpong Wiwatkul, Esther Soh, Lisa Yun, Sabrina Foong, Lee Li Leng, Timothy Tan, Susan Tan
Tim Griffith