New Space Architects demonstrate the importance of architectural design research in Green buildings
Shelford Suites sits on a rectilinear site enclosed by neighbouring residential and private developments with the main vehicular access through a quiet road from the west side. The composition of the facades creates a movement of shifting planes and volumes, giving the building a lighter feel and redefining the streetscape with its linear form.
To fulfil the client's brief of maximising views beyond the site to the cityscape; the site layout is designed to form an L-shape, with the longer building overlooking the panoramic city view, and the shorter one capturing a serene view of an elongated internal garden and infinity pool, creating an illusion of space in the tight site.
However, this particular layout results in a majority of units experiencing west-facing sun exposure. Given Singapore's tropical climate, a key architectural design strategy is to achieve minimal heat gain and reduce the overall cooling load requirement.
A Gold Plus medal winner under Singapore's Building and Construction Authority Green Mark Award, this residential building highlights how detailed architectural design research enhances residents' comfort and quality of living without compromising on the aesthetic features.
The treatment of the west façade presented a great opportunity for the architect to express architecture in a functional and environmental friendly way and this was thoughtfully considered during the design process. The layers of defence provided against the direct western sun –balconies, thickness of walls, sun shading devices and planting – all contributed to the protection of the west façade while at the same time, not compromising on the aesthetics which serves as an important street front to the neighbourhood.
Balconies of at least 1.3m were introduced at the west façade to provide an effective buffer from direct sunlight. These balconies were located in an alternate position to create a series of shifting planes and volumes that break down the massing of the building to create an interesting articulation along the streetscape. Openings were kept to the minimum and further shielded the interior of the residence from direct heat and glare. Special consideration was given to the design of wall thickness and materials to effectively reduce heat gained. The roofing construction was also carefully considered to ensure that penthouse units at the top floor do not gain excessive heat. Lastly, tall trees of at least 5m were grown along the green buffer to further mitigate the effects of heat gain as well as to ensure the west facing rooms enjoy privacy while allowing for adequate natural lighting and ventilation.
Other environmental friendly features of the project include solar panels installed at green turf roof of clubhouse, and rainwater harvesting system to collect rainwater from roof to irrigate the extensive landscape area. Solar energy is absorbed from atmospheric air, which is then converted into useful heat used to provide hot water for changing room shower facilities in the heat pump system.
During the initial design process, a series of studies were carried out to analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of the environmental measures proposed.
The solar study indicated that west facing walls, especially in the rooms located at the 5th storey, had the most heat gain. A recommendation to thicken the wall was thus proposed and the design of the block facing the entrance was refined to include balconies, sunscreen and planters to reduce the heat gain. In areas without balconies, opening sizes were kept the minimum.
The study also took into consideration roofing construction material and methods adopted for a thorough study. The U-value of the roof was 0.47 W/m2k and was within the acceptable range stipulated by the Building Authorities.
Daylight study was also done for the west facing rooms to ensure natural lighting to the rooms was not compromised due to smaller openings. The study reflected that with the sunscreen and balconies, solar radiation was lowered by 25-30 % and effectively reduces glare while keeping the lighting level for the rooms within a comfortable range.
A noise study was also carried out to ensure that traffic noise from the nearby highway does not affect the residence. A 12.75mm thick laminated glass was thus introduced for the east facing façade to effectively bring down noise level to acceptable range when the windows and doors are closed.
Finally, a wind study was carried out to access how cross ventilation could be achieved along the corridors which channels wind from the larger openings at the living room and master bedrooms to the smaller windows at the corridors. With the research findings in mind, the design brief of this linear condominium is to create a wind tunnel effect which allows wind to pass through continually through the rooms and provide natural air ventilation. To further improve natural air ventilation, the orientation of the master bedroom door was adjusted to allow for provide better wind circulation.
These studies were done in the initial design stage and provided useful feedbacks in helping to refine some of the design proposals for the building. This highlights the importance of architectural design research in enhancing the effectiveness of a building.
The design integrates environmental features within its massing design to create an integrated architecture which is both aesthetically pleasing as well as environmentally friendly. The consultant team considers the seen and unseen parts of the building, the process of construction as well as the built form as equally important in achieving an environmentally friendly and efficient building in this instance.