AUG 2010 VOL 24 (11)
Archit e Inter i c t u r e : P ra d or s: S +P S, P e e p S a c c h de u ra n K umar v a , I n d ra n e Archit el Du tta ects
18 IA&B - AUG 2010
Green Initiatives Winston T. Shu of Integrated Design Associates, Hong Kong, has practised for 29 years with broad experience in specialised fields of design expertise that embody advance environmental technologies. In an exclusive conversation with Sarita Vijayan, Editor & Brand Director, Indian Architect & Builder Magazine, he sheds light on many aspects facing technology’s role in the built environment. SV. In today’s advancement in building, engineering and technological field, what is the significance of integrating architecture and advanced engineering with technological sophistication? WS. It is a very important thing for us architects to learn all aspects of engineering and what is the current state-of-the-art system, because we need to be able to work with different disciplines and to be able to know how to deal with them, we also need to know what is currently the most advanced engineering systems there are. Sometimes, you need to use them because some buildings require that kind of input; on the other hand some buildings do not need to go to such advanced engineering to make it work. So you have to equip yourself, as an architect, so that when a client comes you have something different to offer him and not let him tell you what he wants and you say “I don’t know anything about that”, because that would be very embarrassing as an architect. SV. What technological aspects have you introduced to pioneer a better quality product and improve the quality of life? WS. There are many aspects; I will talk about two or three of them. Knowing how air moves and how air conditioning can be used in a very large space without having to air condition that full volume of space, is one thing you will never know until you do a building. When we were doing the Hong Kong Airport, the ceiling is 24m high and you will see that people are only moving in the lower three-four meters. So a lot of questions get asked like, ‘Isn’t that very energy inefficient, you have such high volume and you are only using the bottom 4 metres.’ The answer is actually no. In fact larger the volume, the more efficient your air conditioning is, because you are not trying to cool the entire volume, you let the hot air rise and let it sit there, that holds the cool air at the bottom. So there is an invisible line, that is a temperature gradient and up to that line you only circulate the air below that and so that zone is only three meters to four and a half meters. Therefore, your only conditioning is 31/2 to 41/2m area of volume and therefore, larger the building, more efficient the air conditioning is , which goes against the conventional way of thinking, that if you have a large volume you must put a lot of air and moves a lot of air around to keep it cool. That is the sort of engineering which is now well accepted.
Photograph: courtesy SEWC
SV. Your recent work includes the iconic riverside development in Shanghai. What was design process that you adopted to approach the above two projects? WS.The Shanghai project is very simple. The client is a very commercial developer, and he wanted to maximise his return and in real estate. The higher you go the more valuable the space is. In most buildings, if you are going higher, the opposite happens, the structure and the building start to get slenderer, so as a result, you are diminishing the most valuable real estate. If you are going straight up, you are doing the same thing, 1000sqm at base and 1000sqm at the top, the only rate of return of increase is only because you are going higher. If I can provide the client with a bigger floor space, where the rate of return is at
let’s partner its maximum, then I will have a ‘funnel’ building where, minimum floor space is at the bottom because that is the lowest return & maximum floor space at the top where there is maximum return. So building becomes ‘cone-shaped’. Now how do you keep such a building structure to work? Although, the approach is very commercial, it meets the client’s requirements. Now most of the schemes that he had, this client had almost 18 buildings on the same site and ours was just one of the 18 buildings and ours is the only one that gives him the rate of return that he wouldn’t imagine, because all the other towers were just straight. So immediately, that gives him a different perception of what we can achieve for him. Then you look for addition of value, if I give him more floor space then you obviously have more space then do you create an atrium or something different in terms of spatial experience, then you divide the building into 6 clusters, so each cluster is for a large corporate company tenant and so you create an atrium for each cluster, so therefore you can lease this tower as 6 large corporate tenant but each have their own corporate identity. Now if you go into a tower with 6 tenants, every floor will be the same, the exterior does not tell you either that Mr. So-and-so has his office there, you would not be able to tell. Whereas, if you do it that way; every tenant has his identity. What company would not like to be recognised from the outside, so if you can provide them that, it of extra value to you, it is like advertising on the outside of the building, but not so garishly that you put posters, but you just recognise it as a interesting space. SV. Can you provide an insight to the LEED Platinum certified landmark commercial development in China amongst your recent works? WS. LEED Platinum building also has been approached from a very practical angle. The client has a piece of site which on paper allows him to build 200,000sqm but the two schemes, which he employed before he commissioned us, got rejected by the city planner. Because the amount of daylight the building was blocking of the neighbouring window, it prevented the planning authority to give the approval. If you have to meet the planning requirement, meant that the building had to be slanted or had to be adjusted so that the day light can actually reach every window. We calculated that if we were to do that, we lose 40 per cent of your total buildable volume. Now when you bought the land you thought you had 200,000sqm, but suddenly now you lose 40 per cent of that. You will then think twice if that site is worth paying that much amount of money. He was on the verge of abandoning that project, so he said give me another solution where I can do something different. So we came up with the idea of microclimatic envelope. Now, the microclimatic envelope was not because we had a flash of idea that we want to go green, it was because once u have a step-down building you have a lot of terraces a lot of gaps between the buildings that you cannot use so in order to achieve that 200sqm. I need to use that area which otherwise would be unusable, so therefore you buy some of those areas back. If those areas are on the roof, would you use the roof as an office? It is going to cause problems when it is windy, when there is a sand storm, in Beijing, its too hot too cold. But if you enclose its like a conservatory, it is like a winter garden, why wouldn’t one use it. So that concept suddenly brought us the idea that maybe if I can convert all that unusable area into useable then I will be able to give the client the 200,000sqm. So therefore, by enclosing the space you could provide a lot more area that is usable and rentable, but then by doing so isn’t that going to get very hot, unconditioned, who is going to use it, etc, etc. So then the idea of natural ventilation and using advanced technology to see weather a micro climate can be created by this skin and that is what lead us to this green building design. So it comes from a very practical reason and then you find a solution that is a much advanced engineering to give you the answer to allow you to do it. But the back of it, it is always the practical objectives.
SV. You had the opportunity to work with Norman Foster. What impact did the experience have on your architectural design and philosophy? WS. My experience at Foster+ Partners was very illuminating. I think it is one of the best things in my life as a professional person. It is tough but you learn a great deal. The office has a culture of analysing everything. We never had to tell a client to choose a certain project because it is better, why it is better? Because I like it. We never had to say that. When you present an idea to a client, it has to have a rational reason. If the client sees the rational reason just the same way you see it, he will always agree with you. It is only when yon cannot win over such an argument that you have to use the big architect argument, “I am the architect, I think this is nice so you should have it.” That is not the way it should be. So that is what I learnt from Foster; never impose your thoughts through the jack-hammer way. You impose it by very gradual persuasion but the persuasion is always in a very analytical and logical process. Now that is what I thought was the biggest benefit working in an office like Foster’s. SV. You have designed the highly acclaimed Hyderabad International Airport. How was your experience working in India and what are your views on the Indian infrastructure industry? WS. I really enjoyed working in Hyderabad, to be absolutely honest about it. I think in India, the project management skill is first class. I mean I have worked with British contractors, Chinese and now with Indian contractors, worked with clients who have managed to complete the project themselves, worked with clients who employ project managers to complete the project for them and I have to say the project management team in Hyderabad was first class. They were very professional and very on-hand to deal with the issues. When I look back, the project manager who was an Indian and the way he dealt with issues, how very Indian it was. He would not upset anyone; correct me if I am wrong, in Indian culture one does not like to upset anyone. They like to keep everyone happy, but yet you do what you want but without upsetting anyone. In the European way when I was working in England you do not have to do that, you do not have to be so mannered. If you do not like something you just speak it out and just say how it has to be. I watched this project manager how he dealt with different voices around him, the positive ones, the negative ones but at the end of the day it was the way he wanted. And that to me something like an art and I learned it from him too. When you come to construction industry the only difference, I feel, when it comes to building a building in Europe as opposed to building a building in China and again a building in India, the difference is in the workmanship. I think India still has a little bit more to learn about finishing a building to a certain quality and then maintaining that building to that quality. China also has very similar issues to these, they can build in a standard closer to the European, probably not 10 years ago, but today their industry has improved so much, they have imported the best machinery for manufacturing so the products are now very good so therefore they can match quality for quality in terms of material. But the only thing they are lacking is putting them together with that sort of care. They can bang it all up, which looks good for the first day but day two, its starts to dismantle with the joints opening up and that sort of thing. So the culture to maintain things at their end, is still lacking in China. India, I think is similar in that sense. I have seen many building that have just come up but it already seems like they have aged. When I went back to Hyderabad, I think GMR has maintained the building very well, they have taken a lot of care of what they have. And I suppose this is what is missing in some of the other buildings. If an architect or an engineer can produce a building that shows the amount of love and care in the detailing and the client follows you with that love and care then the building quality improves.