Gap: Today we’re at AI’s house Gap: and to my right is the architect , Raksak, or Tan. Gap: Sawasdee krub Gap: He may look familiar to some. He was my senior during my undergrad years at School of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University. So, this house was just recently completed? Tan: About 2 months now Gap: And your company’s name is GreenDwell? Tan: Yep ! Gap: Well, we know that the term ‘green design’ is related to energy and environmental considerations but the other term that that you seem to also place emphasis on is ‘quality of life’ or wellbeing of the users or so-called dwellers, hence the name ‘dwell’. Tan: We place emphasis on wellbeing. To design a home, depends on which factor the architect would prioritize. Tan: One could focus more on function or aesthetics. To me, the heart of a home is the happiness of those who live or ‘dwell’ in it. Tan: So we use this as our starting point in all of our design projects and then functions would follow, and aesthetics would follow. Tan: Our design process began with interviewing the homeowners on their needs, their lifestyle, how they wanted to raise their kids. How they wanted to spend their weekends and what kind of activities they wanted to do, and where they wanted to do it..and that varies from family to family. Gap: True, I have heard about this from my wife who also practices as an architect. I understand that architects would have a very detailed questionnaire for the homeowners. Tan: In general, I would do a one-on-one interview for each family member. Gap: Well, that sounds like an interrogation! Tan: Not that serious though, it has more to do with getting to know the owner’s likes and dislikes. For example, when one would decide to buy a car, that person would need to do quite a detailed research. Getting a home of your own is a lot more than that as you would spend the rest of your life in it. I believe the house plays a big part in determining how the dwellers would live. So why not pay more time and attention in going through your needs with the architect. Gap: After you get such information for this house, what are their wants and needs? Tan: The owners wanted their kids to be independent but they also wanted each family member to be able to see and connect to each other no matter where they might be spending time in. So, for example, if the dad is sitting here at the dining table, he might probably be eating while his daughter might be watching TV upstairs. And yet, they could see and talk to each other, so the parents are able to watch their children grow without disturbing one another’s privacy. Because at one point, the kids would grow up and become teenagers. They’d need their own space. But how do we do that, so that they don’t spend too much of their time inside their own rooms. I think that happiness can be shared between each family member, and that doesn’t happen by chance. It could only happen through the owners and the architects working together. And we integrate this idea along with our design process, where we are trying to bring in passive strategies suitable for Thailand such as natural ventilation or shading design or daylighting. And we used environmental simulation tools to assist us during the design process. And I remember you asked me about what I think is the heart of a home. I think that’s the picture where everyone can be happy living inside of that home. Well, in literal sense, no home has a heart.. so really, a heart of a home is where each family member can be happy living or dwelling inside a house. And that’s what turns a house into a home. There’s a saying that you may not need a house when the other person is your home.. and that’s happiness. Gap: haha, that’s so sweet Tan: To me, I think it doesn’t depend on your budget, whether you have a luxury home, an expensive home, or a nice-looking home, but whether you could live in that house happily is what matters. Gap: From what you said, during the design process, one important factor is that an architect should be able to really understand what the owners want and the important thing is how you could really obtain that information and translate that into good design. Gap: I wanted to say that, during our opening shot, I wanted everyone to be able to visualize it just as you did. To see the connectivity between the 3 stories and see how you could easily connect to one another. Tan: To me it’s the same thing, connectivity and openness. When you have that openness, you have ‘atmosphere’. So our home design is usually open-plan, even for a room that could be air conditioned, it would be designed to have 2 modes, an open and a closed mode. That’s advantageous. We are usually asked how GreenDwell who usually design a house with good natural ventilation could deal with PM 2.5 concerns in urban area. And I would say the house has to be able to be closable when needed. A house with good natural ventilation should also be closable. ‘Closed’ would mean the house can be sealed (airtight) and you could use fresh air intake fan which could filter out PM 2.5. You would create a positive pressure inside a room, so bad air does not leak in. We believe in providing ‘choices of living’ for home dwellers as they need. We want the homeowners to enjoy changes. Gap: And this is just the intro.. for us to understand the main ideas of this very interesting home design. Let’s take a look outside. Gap: Coming out into the pool and deck area. Could you tell us a little bit about the house form and how it came to be this way? And in the front we can see that we have a slanted wooden facade that, while I was driving in, I could see this facing my direction. Tan: The house form is conceived based on layering information of the climate and contexts. Neighboring buildings, Feng-Shui from the owner, combined with the brief and sun and wind directions, which is our consideration. The house was set back more from this side of the neighbor house and the L-shaped surrounds a pocket courtyard with the pool location options, only between here, as designed, or over there. but i want to make the connection between family members For example, when kids are swimming here they can see their parents inside the house. and kids can swimming as long as they want without getting hot. that’s how i designed the floor plan of this area. Actually this house is in L-shaped and i designed a split level as you can see i put the family area in the front of the house which need privacy in the evening and night time. but i also want to bring sunlight and wind into this area. that’s why we came up with a slanted wooden facade. I feel that the house wouldn’t have any frontage. So, you can tilt it in this direction. making it look friendlier to passers-by. and It also helps to shade better and provides more privacy. So by turning it a little bit and it could smile at me like that. It’s like I’m smiling to the Camera .. like this. The pattern of the facade and the design is based on the ideas of providing privacy with ease of maintenance, and within budget. Should look nice, and when it’s facing west like this, it could still allow ventilation. Or when it gets dusty and the rain could wash it down easily. Gap: So, we could park two cars at the front Tan: Actually 4. If there are more than two cars, you could still park on the grass pavers Generally there would be 2, but when we have visitors, then there could be 4 max. Gap: So, the owners would walk through this path after they park. And then coming in through the front door, Tan: Yes, that would be the seating area for taking your shoes off. Then you would enter the main living area. Let me show you. Gap: You could actually get into the house through this door as well. Tan: Yes, of course. For the home owners, on their daily use, they could just walk in and out using this door which is more convenient. As we’re trying to create a flow of connection between the indoor, the semi indoor-outdoor, and the outdoor. you might wonder why does that matter? Well, we imagined the activities that are happening inside the house and I also have a kid of my own. So we understand that there would be a lot of activities in one day, because kids learn through play. So the question is, with this nice, neatly looking space, if one day your child would yell, I wanna paint, I wanna paint… and you would say, let’s not do this honey or you could stain the sofa! Gap: Or if they have a sand box, or water play.. Tan: Right.. or if they got new toys that they want to play in the pool. So, if you provide a play space for them that is comfortable, cool and breezy, and you could maintain it well, then you are making ends meet. Gap: True Tan: Would you just stop them from playing because you just care about your sofa too much.. We can have the semi indoor-outdoor space that corresponds to the family life and I think it is vital that a home is truly serving all those using a home. Gap: So let’s move on to the ground floor planning. If you were to walk inside, you would see the living furniture set, the dining set. At the back, here’s the pantry and you would see that, back there, there is a large opening. Tan: If you were to look outside, that is where the wash & dry area, and the maids quarter are. You would see that this is quite a huge sliding door, because this is actually the wind gap for this house. The door could be opened fully and this is the wind where the wind would cross through, from the front towards the back. Gap: By standing here looking towards the front, I could clearly see that there are a lot of openings, one on ground floor, on the 1.5 floor, and also on the 3rd floor. Tan: Actually, we have 2 main spots, which is that one here, and upstairs. The location of these openings was optimized through running ventilation simulations. And this room is now the playroom for the kids, and then one day, it could be transformed into a music practice room or work/study room which they can spend time with their friends. Gap: I can see that you have some low windows here, and looking out, you could see a narrrow pathway. Does it have any particular use? Tan: Here, if you were to see that white wall out there, and you would see one tree. That is actually the neighbor’s wall with windows. Gap: So it is quite vey close to the site’s perimeter. Tan: Well, ‘close’ may not be the right word. It’s actually ‘right on top’ of the site’s perimeter. That’s why we would not open the windows at the eye level because that would affect the privacy for both our side and also the neighbors But we bring daylight in at seating level, one could still be able to lookout, so it feels more opened. And this opening, the neighbors cannot really see us, and when we look out, we do not see them. And another location is the clerestory windows at the top because we want to be able to look out to the sky. With all the factors combined, that’s why we’re facing the house inward, looking internally at our pool and garden instead, o there is no need to open on every side. Just on the sides that can be managed. Gap: I have a question, since we have quite a huge central space like this three stories one, how did you deal with the air conditioning system? And natural ventilation that you said, was enhanced through the wind channel, does that suffice to provide comfort? Tan: Well, for this house, we do have an AC in this room. And a lot of people would ask that, with this kind of space, would you be wasting cooling energy? Gap: Oh, I’m sure we would get some comments like this from this video clip. Tan: I think it depends on many factors, specifically, it also depends on the owner. If the owner says that, I love to turn on the AC every time I’m at home. Then this kind of design would be a waste of energy for sure. But the owner’s brief made it clear that he would prefer to be in a naturally ventilated space as he doesn’t like turning on the AC. As a result, this design. And we only have 2 ceiling fans as secondary cooling source. If we design a home, and the owner says that in general, they turn on the AC every day. Then, you need to be able to make that room closable, and partitioned to be smaller, in order not to waste energy. And for this house if you’re making it to be naturally breezy as many days as possible. That could mean, throughout a year, you may not have to turn on the AC for, let’s say 300 days. To me, that’s the one of the best strategies one could have on your utility bills. It responds to both your happiness and energy efficiency. Gap: Let’s move on to the second floor Tan: We have an open staircase because we want the house to be more opened, as the house size is not that large. This central space is tall because we wanted to create a split level on this 2nd floor. The floor-to-floor height is not high, so it is creating a connection between those spending time on the ground floor and up here. I have asked the owners. The kids. They said they love this room the most. And the reason is because they get to watch TV while their parents are talking to their friends downstairs. This room is actually designed to be air-conditioned so the floor-to-ceiling height is not high. it can be fully closed and it is more of the night time room. To me, I think another reason the kids like this room is because of the coziness atmosphere. Gap: Could you help to close this room so that we could see how it works? Tan: You would slide this to close the room. This is actually a huge wind access channel, and we provide privacy through those vertical shades already. This is pivoting windows. I would slide this in. There’re only 4 modules so it is quite easy. Then you would turn on the AC. And if you walk up there those are the bedrooms one master bedrooms and 2 smaller bedrooms Once you walk down from your bedrooms, you get to this family area where you could spend time together. Gap: So this area would be the area where you could sit back and relax before going into separate bedrooms and I think this is a good location because it’s in between the main living area and the bedrooms. It’s the transitional area where everyone would pass through. Actually, I also thought about its future use.. For example, when the kids become teenagers, their parents could use this space to watch TV and kill time while waiting for their kids to get home. They might also peek out to see who’s dropping off their kids. Gap: And this area is the wooden façade which you mentioned was tilted to greet or smile to the visitors . So only this box of shades is tilted but the house itself is not. Gap: We would consider this floor not to be the actual 2nd floor? Tan: 1.5 floor Gap: From this floor, the level would split. Let’s see. Tan: Now we’re going up to this floor with two small bedrooms which you see first. Gap: These are two small bedrooms for kids. Tan: Then, the master bedroom which is at the back. And from this level to the lower floor is a bit further apart. That’s why you have this pocket hidden pantry space. Gap: You could probably fit in a small fridge in here Tan: The bedroom is designed that way as we wanted it to feel more open and well-shaded. We emphasized on bringing in daylight, especially for the bathroom, to make it more hygienic, well-ventilated. Usually bathrooms could be damp, but if you are able to ventilate it and bring in daylight, and add in the plants, then it feels more resort-like. Gap: This walk-in closet is quite spacious Gap: This door is opened to the roof level? Tan: Yes, it is for air conditioning system services and also for star gazing. So, you will see that this is the second opening for wind access. It is at the same location as on the ground floor (door to maids quarter) but this one is on the top. We proudly present this. Initially, we designed the skylight on top only. During construction site visit, when the wall was still being built, we walked up here and noticed quite an artistic view out where you would see the sky, with TV antennas as the foreground. The proportion was quite nice, so we think the owners may also appreciate this work of art, so called, the Sky and the Antenna. We obviously think it’s better than having no views at all. Besides, this opening is facing north where the sun’s angle is higher, making it easier to shade. Gap: Once we walk up to the top level, it could be hot. But, at this time, as I’m walking here, is about midday and it’s not that warm. Tan: It actually depends on the insulation that you have up on the roof and with a well ventilated home, it would not be as warm. Here on this floor is a multipurpose room and the prayer area. . In the future, it could be converted to a work/study room. We have another clerestory opening with along overhangs on this side and you could see that you are not getting direct sunlight in here. We have diffuse daylight bouncing off the overhang, coming inside, providing softer light with less heat. For this house, it’s like we have designed all the functional areas surrounding the inner court. Usually, with this planning configuration, you may end up with a poorly lit space, so we need to find ways to bring more daylight in without heat. Gap: Now I’m with the homeowner, K. Nong. Could you tell us a little bit about the design process? In the beginning I heard that there was a questionnaire. What was that like? Nong: I think it’s quite detailed. The questionnaire that was sent to me began with asking when I wake up, when I have breakfast, when I would start going out to work, and when I’d be coming back home, what I would I do after that. What kind of TV program. What kind of lifestyle I prefer. At first, it seemed strange for me, having to fill up this detailed questionnaire. But then, I understood that the architects would like to understand me and my lifestyle to design well. Gap: And not just for you but also for your wife and your kids too? Nong: Yes, we filled out the questionnaire together. I kind of answered for my kids because they were young at the time. Then after that, K. Tan used this information to develop the conceptual design. I believe it took around 3 or 4 months to see the first conceptual design. And the first time we saw it, we loved it! My wife was asking whether the house shown was some kind of a sample home that the architects would show so that we could choose? Or was it our home? Because we liked it so much, the space that we had, the connectivity that we love. All was as intended. Gap: Does that mean that from the first draft to construction, they were quite similar? Nong: Yes, there were some minor changes to fulfill our needs. To make it perfect. Gap: When you started living here, was it warm or hot? And what about your utility bills? Was it low as intended? Nong: I was very impressed, because when I opened the windows, the wind actually flows in. I hardly had to turn on any air-conditioning system. And on the first days, I didn’t quite believe what the architect said, and my wife is the one who loves an air-conditioned room. She usually spends more time in the AC room, but when we moved here, it was hard to believe that we could have this lower temperature and live without having to rely that much on air-conditioning system. Because we really wanted the house to connect our family and we want this house to help fulfill our family life, so that we could enjoy more activities together. We felt more connected. And at the end of the day, I could sit down, enjoying breezy air, while my kids would swim and I could watch them and so is my wife, who is cooking at the pantry. To me, this house really helps to support and fulfill our family. Gap: From what you said, I can see how your family life is fulfilled. I think it is quite proper that the house is named AI’s house. Nong: That’s my daughter’s name. Gap: Apart from this house, there are other building types which were designed with similar philosophy. Tan: GreenDwell’s main building types are residential, schools, and workplaces which are for private owners. Also, we are interested to work on projects which have large impacts on wellbeing, like hospitals or elderly care facilities. Gap: That means GreenDwell focuses on ‘green’ and ‘wellbeing’ behind all of the projects. Is that right? Tan: I would say that we have the building users as the central of our design, same as for our home design process. Although the approach may not be the same, but I strongly believe that architecture exists to support people’s quality of life. That’s why we chose only projects that we feel we could contribute. For projects which are very commercial may not be our specialty. Gap: There is one project where GreenDwell has just won an award? Tan: Yes. It’s a school project which has received the gold medal award from the Association of Siamese Architects for Emerging Architecture of the Year 2019. Gap: We can see that, no matter what project types, you would put in green ideas and also wellbeing for the people. Gap: GreenDwell has been operated for 10 years now. In GreenDwell’s journey throughout these years, on its philosophy and goals, from that day until now, were there any differences? Tan: Well, quite a lot! Because we worked mostly on residential projects, we noticed recurring issues and challenges such as communication with the owners, or designing homes which did not focus on how people live. So, we tried to develop our own work process. We had a platform to communicate with the owners. We also have work platform where we integrate environmental simulations throughout our design process. We also had construction control process. So, whatever it takes to make good architecture and good homes. Because we believe that, to have a good home did not begin with the architects but it began from mutual understanding between the owners and the architects. GreenDwell would like to create better quality of life for the people, and I hope that one day we could be able to create a lower and lower budget home which is green and with wellbeing. We think this needs collaboration from all the stakeholders. We’re trying to get information from different research and case studies, finding more inspirations and new technologies, hoping that one day, we would be able to do this for different groups of people. Gap: From what you talked about, it is like you wanted to create a good tiny unit of a family and when these units are combined together then you have better communities, and with those combined, you can have a better society. Tan: I would say that architecture plays a good part there. Then, it’s up to the people, who would be the ones to make it work. I remember watching a TV show TV champion when there was an interview on at an Udon shop and the owner said he loves the look on people’s face when they’re enjoying their food. It made me think that, as an architect, how can I do more. Because people would be spending 30 or 40 years in their homes and that’s even more meaningful to us than winning an award, or getting published on magazines. The goodness for one family to have a good quality of life and when each family’s quality of life are combined together, the society could have better quality of life, and that’s a win-win for all. Gap: I think you also want to send this message to the newer generations of architects too. if you were to compare, when you were younger practitioner, as compared to now. When you were young, you may have focused on the forms or the aesthetics or merely functions. But now that you have come to this point, what is your opinion? Tan: I think we were transformed through years of works. Because when you go to the construction site more often, then you the owner’s happiness becomes yours, and there problems would also become yours. So, my award, is when the house is completed, we see the owners moving in, we see their smiles. I wouldn’t be able to sleep well if there are unresolved problems. So if I am driven or motivated by that kind of feeling, then I would definitely try my best to make their homes that better, not from my own ideas. Gap: I think this is a truly good story to share. I do share the same philosophy as yours. I too was transformed, and I felt that I could do more, not for myself but maybe more for the society. Tan: I have shared my approach. This doesn’t mean that my approach is the best. We all think differently, but this is what I am and this is what I would like to share, that I am happy designing this way. And if this could become a starting point of some good ideas for younger architects who were trying to search for their own ways of practice, I would be glad to. Gap: I think each different architectural firms have different characters and hopefully some would benefit the newer generations. Tan: Character-wise, we could be different, but wouldn’t it be nice if we share the same goals: to help our country to become a better place for all who live in it. Gap: I would like to thank Tan of GreenDwell for sharing with us. Thank you.