The clients, a retired couple, required a house that would enable them to age in place and could accommodate the regular torrential rains and risk of flooding. This flood proof house reinterprets the traditional Malay house, raised high on stilts to ensure living areas are always high and dry. Stiletto house, as nicknamed by its owners, is built primarily of local materials but with non-traditional construction methods. Steel is used as the primary structural component, to create long slender roofs which shade and protect the building.
Limestone hills surround the site and provide distant views from inside the house. The brief has been broken up into three small buildings – for services, living and guests. Pushing the structures to the edges of the site encloses and defines the garden within, creating a private landscape and minimising paved surfaces. Integrating landscape into the design of the flood proof house ensures both building and garden can withstand climate events.
Climate in Southeast Asia can have a serious impact on buildings, with floods, heavy rains and relentless sunshine. Creating a flood proof house required consideration of present-day climate, climate change impacts and how building elements and materials would need to respond.
This project is part of an ongoing search for alternative ways of living, not disconnected from the environment, but rather building in and with nature. The approach requires making a high performance building, with quantifiable aspects like passive design, water efficiency, and electricity production. The other aspect is qualifiable, making buildings that deliberately push people to a closer connection with nature, tuning the occupants to understand the whereabouts and impact of sun, breeze, shade and creating rituals and patterns of habitation that follow this knowledge.
Stiletto is a flood proof house incorporating climate design and timeless principles of eco architecture. Pushing the building up on stilts not only creates a flood proof design but also contributes to catching higher velocity winds, therefore creating constantly ventilated spaces. The interiors of the house are cool and breezy, enabling comfortable living despite the tropical location.
A large array of solar panels produce three times more energy than needed with the excess sold back to the grid. The landscaping is watered by collected rainwater and principal living, dining and kitchen spaces are not air-conditioned. The majority of materials were locally sourced for low embodied energy, including clay bricks and aerated concrete blocks, several species of hardwoods, steel and marble. Construction methods and details bring together cultural and technical aspects to create a flood proof house and eco architecture reflective of Malaysia’s social and historical diversity.