ECOLOGICAL DESIGN, OR ECODESIGN, IS ABOUT “INTEGRATING ECOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES INTO THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT” (QUOTING SIM VAN DER RYN; ARCHITECT, AUTHOR AND EDUCATOR). IT HAS BEEN PUT SIMPLY BY THE ECOLOGICAL DESIGN CENTER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON AS “SUSTAINING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BUILT AND NATURAL WORLDS”.
Some of the commonly used terms to describe a special expression of design that minimises environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes are “Green Architecture”, “Alternative Architecture” and “Sustainable Design”.
It is no different for internationally acclaimed Malaysian architect, Datuk Dr. Ken Yeang, whose interpretation of ecodesign is about “designing in such a way that both the human-made and the natural must blend together so that there will be no pollution, waste or detrimental consequences to the environment”.
He explains: “When we consider the use and selection of materials, the natural world is a vast store of design inspiration. Everything that humans want to do, the natural world has generally achieved, and without consuming fossil fuels, polluting the environment or putting the biosphere’s future at risk.”
In this context, he regards wood “as the greenest building material because it has the lowest embodied energy”. But he stressed that due to social and environmental impacts of large-scale deforestation, only wood from sustainably managed forests can be considered green.
He also considered plants as green building materials, with bamboo and thatch from reeds being traditional examples of building materials. “Today, the focus is on hemp and kenaf (ambary) because of their varied manufacturing applications and low-input production. Fibres of both plants can be used as reinforcement in composite materials,” he explained.
Through collective ethical commitment and education, Dr. Yeang believes that the idea of getting the whole world to implement green features and aspects lies not only in building environment but also in businesses, industry as well as lifestyle is realisable.
Dr. Yeang is known for his ecological and passive low energy skyscraper designs. Among the numerous acknowledgements and awards he has garnered for his past work are:
- Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1996 for architectural design of Menara Mesiniaga in Subang Jaya, Selangor – the first bio-climatic skyscraper that incorporated all aspects of his groundbreaking concepts.
- Royal 1998 Royal Australian Institute of Architects International Award for architectural designs of Menara UMNO in Penang.
- Prince Claus Fonds Award from the Netherlands and the international Union of Architects Auguste Perret Prize for Applied Technology in Architecture, both in 1999.
Among his latest achievements was winning the inaugural “ecoStyle 2007” award for his ecofriendly architectural designs. The award is an initiative by ecoStyle, a joint venture by NYC Inc. and IMG Fashion, two leading international event and marketing specialists, and is supported by Tourism Malaysia and Earth Pledge, a US-based non-governmental organisation.
The event aspires to educate the broader design industries and consumers on the importance of greater environmental consciousness. Malaysia was chosen to host the award ceremony, held last December in Kuala Lumpur, as it was seen as the most proactive developing country in Asia adopting environmental policies.
For the “ecoStyle 2007” award, Dr. Yeang triumphed over renowned designers from the fashion, architecture and product design fields from other countries including the United States and France. The “ecoStyle” award is given to the most environmentally friendly and stylishly innovative design.
“I am truly delighted to receive this award. This achievement is especially significant to me as a Malaysian and for Malaysia. It reiterates the importance of merging ecology and design to promote the concept of sustainable architecture,” said Dr. Yeang upon winning the award.
The nomination list was announced in Los Angeles in October 2007, with 25 nominations received from all over the world, including famous brands such as BodyShop, Terra Plana footwear, Anna Cohen’s ready-to-wear collection, Stella McCartney fashion and Knoll furniture. The entries were judged by the ecoStyle Selection Committee comprising high profile members from the style and design communities from the world over.
Currently, Dr. Yeang is working on several “green” projects in several countries, including the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital in London, which he claims to be the first “green” hospital. He has also authored as well as coauthored many architectural books, including a groundbreaking book on bio-climatic designs for skyscrapers in 1997.
His latest book entitled “EcoDesign, A Manual for Ecological Design” has earned a commendable review from the American Institute of Architects COTE (Committee on the Environment).