Sustainable Community – Shelter@Rainforest

Sustainable Community - Shelter@Rainforest

How do you create a sustainable community in a remote area of Borneo?

In this talk Ken Yeh explores the approach required to successfully build a sustainable community from scratch. Journey to a remote area of Borneo to discover how Marra + Yeh Architects answered the needs of a private forestry company to masterplan and design an autonomous village including housing, offices and communal facilities for 200 staff, all permanently stationed in the forest. The company controls 100,000 hectares of forest for a period of 99-years under a system of sustainable reforestation; obligations include planting an average of 30 seedlings for each tree harvested.

Started in 2012 as the first stage and implemented over several years the project is a striking example of local co-operation and sophisticated techniques using local materials and labour to provide sustainable housing in a taxing tropical setting. Each building is self-sufficient with solar electricity, waste recycling units and rainwater collection.  The design ensures a comfortable ventilated indoor environment of 26C despite the tropical latitude temperature of 34C and prevailing high humidity.  The design solution incorporates a  modular system, based on the unrelenting geometry of a plywood sheet, timber sections of small dimensions and years of research into vernacular and climate-adaptive architecture in Asia-Pacific. The framework creates freedom and flexibility allowing for variety in the building types and adaptability for specific site conditions, all of critical importance in a remote location.

With the aim of creating an architecture that resonates at the environmental, social and technical levels, Marra & Yeh involved a botanist, an anthropologist and a structural engineer into a cohesive team.  The resulting architecture utilises local materials and labour assisted by a high degree of structural engineering knowledge and modern jointing techniques. This frugal construction system is a clear symbol of environmental stewardship for the client company.