July 13, 2007

04 Green Architecture? How green is the green?

The class begins with the movie: An Inconvenient Truth. Well, for me, it is a good excuse to watch the movie, because I would never imagine that my physical ability to stand the movie in a theater or watching DVD alone at home without falling asleep!

We discuss a lot after the movie with all the students. Well, we all agree that Al Gore found something very nice to do after his presidency and the truth he shows us is breath-taking. However, he is a politician, still. The way the movie presents the 'truth' somehow is very political - we are not saying that politics should be out of our issues, since we all live in politics, whether we like it or not - but the approach makes the 'serious issues' Gore wants to communicate to the audience weaken somehow.

Also, once after some miniutes of presenting 'the incovenient truth', Gore always goes back to his family history, which I personally find it very boring, and did not add much to the main topic of the movie.

The most memorable scene in the movie is about a poor polar bear swimming and finally drowning into the melting ice in the north pole area.. it is very emotional scene. The students also comment that after seeing the film we know that the world is getting hot, the global warming is now, but then, what we can do pratically is not clear. So my next assignment for the students is: One practical proposal to make the global warming cool (down). :)

The next discussion is about green architecture or sustainable architecture. The terms are quite widely used and became very popular in the recent years. (I am not an expert on the subject at all. ) However, we understand that green architecture or sustainable architecture is a concept of a building that concerned the environment especially ecology system, not to harm the environment or harm the least...

One of the popular approach in this environmentally friendly architecture that can be sold very well in Thailand is 'energy efficiency' or 'energy saving' in architecture. :O However, we end up buying 'hi-tech' and fancy materials and equipments from abroad.. We are not sure here if it is really sustainable in our context here in Thailand and especially in Baan Leam Tong. Already in Baan Leam Tong school, they built this solarcell electrical generator system that get broken very often that finally it does not work any longer and became a kind of weird statue in the middle of the school. According to our environmental architect consultant, Atch Sreshthaputra (a very good friend of mine and also a professor in our school) the solarcell system requires very high maintenance, and usually does not work in a very remote area. :(

So the approach I give some examples to the students is the one that focus more on an 'intelligent' way to use local materials in 'sustainable' way - sustainable economically, socially and also culturally. :)

Aunpama Kundoo is one of our heroine here. She is an Indian architect who builds a lot of very interesting experiments - how to use little concrete in her construction because concrete is not environmentally friendly materials at all. She gave a lecture in Chiangmai at ARCASIA meeting 2005 on the subject too, very interesting.

For example this vault structure is built by using a self-support structure of small terracotta flower vases putting togeter.

The concrete floor that use also terracotta bowls as a mold and supporting structure that finally left in the floor, to use little concrete but the strength of the structure is the same.

Another very exciting project of Anupama Kundoo is this Fire House. The structure is firstly built by raw earth bricks , laying in the shape of a round structure. Then She burns it all , like a big terracotta untensil. ;O very impressive.

In Thailand, we also have an interesting example of this kind. Unfortunately, it is another 'Architecture Without Architect'...again. It is a small temple in Srisaket Province, called วัดล้านขวด or literaly translation is Million-Bottle Temple. The buildings in the temple are built from empty bottles of beer! (What an anti- Buddhism act! - some students comment)

Well, perhaps it is too difficult to make people stop drinking, so drinking that also makes merit for building the temple is not too bad, perhaps.

There are several color of bottles, that means they use several brands of beer to build those building, a student who is perhaps an expert on beer or beer bottle gives an observation. :)

Another obeservation we find here is that, perhaps the bottle is very good heat insulation for the interior speace as well... what a genuis!

Somehow, we arrive also to one of our favourite architects, mr Shigeru Ban. He might not be catagorized into this so-called sustainable architect. But many things he did with paper tube and bamboo, are in fact very little harm to the environment, especially in a disaster condition.

Last year when he gave a lecture in Thailand, I had a chance to have dinner with him. He told us that nowadays, whenever disaster happens, they call him. Well, it is not a bad job at all... when someone really needs an architect. ;) Here are disaster recuse project he did in Turkey and Africa.

Well, a lot of foods for thoughts for today. :) The students are already 'full'. :)