Ken Yeang: On Sustainable, Green, and Biophilic design

Ken Yeang was initially regarded as a rogue designer with his new and never heard ideologies on ecology and architecture. Through the years, however, his mindset and theories on ecological design garnered attention from the Architecture and Design industry due to the demand for sustainable and green design. His advanced studies and advocacies made him the Father of Bioclimatic design and leading expert in Green Architecture. 

Image from SHARE Architects

He is born in Penang, Malaysia, and studied at Cheltenham College in England and took further education in Architecture at the London Architectural Association. Yeang also received his Ph.D. in Ecological Design from Cambridge University, he is a known Architect, Planner, Ecologist, and author, but Ken Yeang describes himself as an “Ecologist first, architect second”.

Ecologist first, architect second.”

– Ken Yeang

One of Ken Yeang’s known projects is the Roof Roof House which is a prototype for his experimentation with passive design. He incorporated several features such as an umbrella-like structure that serves as an environmental filter; a swimming pool functioning as an evaporative cooling device; and doors that allow morning sun but blocks heat and radiation. 

Yeang knows the complexities of understanding and applying Sustainability and Green Design. It is easy to assume that a simple placing of plants, trellises, or rooftop gardens may automatically be considered as Sustainable design. He mentioned in his book; Sustainable Retrofitting of Commercial Buildings: Warmer Climates – “We would be mistaken to see green design as simply about eco-engineering. These engineering systems are indeed (an) important part of green design…but these are not exclusively the only considerations in green design.” 

Solaris One North Building
CC BY-SA 3.0

Singapore National Library
CC BY-SA 3.0

He believes that “active solution” like solar panels, airconditioning, building automation systems, double-skin facades, as well as building accreditation ratings such as LEED, does not makeup Sustainable Design. Instead, Passive systems built within the design and connecting to the natural environment is the key to sustainable design. 

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As an Architect and Planner, Ken Yeang is known for his studies and theories on Vertical Green Urbanism where he challenges the boundaries of design and natural environment. Ken Yeang envisions skyscrapers as cities in the sky, where the vertical structures will be sustainable- featuring vertical gardens, courts, water harvesting systems, etc. and the ground will create an opportunity for wildlife to regenerate. 

In his book titled Bioclimatic Skyscrapers, Ken Yeang describes skyscrapers as an intensification of built space in the small floor area and will become the future as the cities expand. He believed that as a response, buildings should be bioclimatic, energy-efficient, and sustainable especially for the wellness of the users. 

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Throughout his career, Ken Yeang continuously advocate Architects to study ecological processes to be applied to their design thinking. A lot of people were unsure of his ideas and deemed it superficial and conceptual. However, with the present situation in the world, his determination to address issues on the practice and environment lead the architecture sector to pursue more environmentally responsive designs. Little by little making the ones dubbed as conceptual ideas as to a successful and tangible possibility. 

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