The climate of Malaysia’s rapidly growing cities is hot and humid during most of the year, a typical tropical climate. One of the greatest challenges facing the designers of housing for Malaysia’s urban dweller is to control the climate and achieve acceptable levels for comfort in the home. At the same time, however, the world is becoming increasingly aware of the threat of global warming and the need to reduce global energy consumption. There is a need therefore to improve the environmental performance of housing using passive low energy architectural strategies (PLEA) such as the form, orientation, material and construction methods rather than depending heavily on active climate control system such as air-conditioning.
Terraced housing has been one of the most common housing forms in Malaysia since urbanisation during the 1970s. The form has evolved from the Chinese ‘shophouse’ which was the dominant urban form before that time. Traditional shophouse incorporated a number of passive environmental design strategies to produce a comfortable living environment. Modern Malaysian terraced houses however have lost some of these PLEA features and rely heavily on active climate control systems. The major question thrown up by these observations is what steps can be taken to improve the environmental performance of the Malaysian terraced house?
This investigation into climate responsive terraced housing involves research on passive design strategies employed in the Chinese shophouse and other traditional housing types in Malaysia, and a review of the current literature on passive low energy architecture in order to make some suggestions for improvement s to terraced housing. While passive low energy strategies are useful in minimising the negative impact of climate on terrace housing, a hybrid climate control system is required which combines passive strategies with active climate control to provide comfort level to occupants in urban housing.