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Interview with an Eco-Housing Expert: Jason Pomeroy (Part 1 of 2)

Blog post   •   Mar 09, 2015 17:23 +08

With its rapid urbanisation, Southeast Asia is an expanding market for green building development and has seen tremendous growth in the adoption of green building policies and practices by both governments and property-development companies.

Panasonic speaks to award-winning eco-architect, master planner and academic Prof. Jason Pomeroy, principal and founder of Singapore-based architectural firm Pomeroy Studio. In part one of a two-part interview, he talks about the key issues, drivers and trends of green buildings in Southeast Asia.

1. How long have you been an eco-architect, and what drives your passion in your chosen field?

JP: Well, I like to think I became an eco-architect when I built my first wigwam in my parents' garden. I think I was about five years old at the time. I have always been attracted to greenery, but my biggest inspiration came when I visited St. Paul's Cathedral in London - the dome structure and lofty interior were absolutely stunning and from then on I was determined to become an eco-architect.

I was fascinated by high-density cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore and the way they would salvage what little open space they had for recreational and social use. I took this further during my research at Cambridge University, where I explored high-rise eco-architecture and the role of skycourts and skygardens. Now, based in Asia, I am in a position to improve the way people here live with what I've learnt so far.

2. In your opinion, what drives the development of green building in Southeast Asia?

JP: While there are many drivers behind the growth of green buildings in the region, one in particular stands out. Many of our clients, especially those in Malaysia and Indonesia, place a huge emphasis on liveability. As most are well aware, many cities in Asia are congested, with high levels of pollution, poorly planned buildings, a distinct lack of green communal spaces - the list goes on.

Eco-architecture ensures that the built environment is sensitive to its inhabitants as well as the surrounding ecology. My research and work with skycourts and skygardens is a perfect illustration of this. A lack of green spaces in many cities, and the high cost of land, have necessitated the formation of green, communal areas upwards. These areas replace the loss of open space within the urban habitat, forming alternative social spaces for citizens to congregate. There is now a growth in demand for cities that are more pleasant places to live and work, and this demand will continue to drive the development of green buildings in Asia.

3. What are some other key issues or challenges that face the development of green buildings in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia?

JP: Another misconception that I have alluded to is the belief that sustainability simply means satisfying environmental issues, particularly addressing our carbon woes through utilisation of solar panels or wind turbines. In reality, there are also other facets of sustainability. There is little consideration for society and the economy. But I think the next stage of our evolution is persuading people that sustainability goes beyond the triple bottom line. It embraces culture and tradition, technology and space preservation to create built environments that are sensitive to the surrounding ecology, use less energy and are pleasant, accessible places to live and work.

4. What are some of the key trends that will influence the development of green buildings in Asia in the next three to five years?

JP: There are two major trends in the region that will affect the development of my profession over the next few years. The first is the continued mass movement of people from rural to urban areas. This will place increasing strain on natural resources, especially water (for consumption).

Additionally, cities that do not plan properly for this influx may experience poor quality of living, pollution and shortage of jobs. Eco-architecture will play a role in mitigating many of these negative effects. More energy-efficient buildings will ease the strain on water, natural resources and energy supplies. Furthermore, green buildings are cheaper to run in the long term, and will likely become a residential and commercial standard in time to come.

The second major trend over the next few years will be the mass acceptance of climate change among the general population, and policy-makers, in Asia. Major agreements between the US and China show that we are beginning to see more of an alignment between developing and developed countries on how to tackle climate change.

As the pressure on governments and businesses to adopt more sustainable practices grows, the cost of less energy-efficient buildings may start to rise. Sustainability may then become a more important part of building decisions, driving demand for cost-efficient, green buildings.

About Prof. Jason Pomeroy

Prof. Jason Pomeroy is an award-winning British registered architect, master planner and academic at the forefront of the sustainable built environment agenda. He graduated with distinction from the Canterbury School of Architecture and Cambridge University, and is the founding principal of Pomeroy Studio.

In addition to leading Pomeroy Studio, he is the author of Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat (2014) and Idea House: Future Tropical Living Today (2011), and is a special professor at the University of Nottingham and the Universita IUAV di Venezia. He sits on the editorial board of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and is an active member of the Singapore Green Building Council. Jason is also the host of City Time Traveller, an award-winning architecture travel series on Channel NewsAsia, and is a featured speaker on TEDx Singapore.

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