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Award-winning Architecture Firm by Ipoh Girl Propels Green Buildings Forward

By Mei Kuan

One of the most exciting projects for an award-winning architecture firm in Ipoh is the Bonanza Venture Holdings’ (BVH) green headquarters in Ipoh, set to be the first Green Building Index (GBI) platinum-certified building in Perak. 

BVH, the holding company for a slew of company brands including Kinta Properties and Meru Valley Resort, began construction of its headquarters along Jalan Lasam in September 2020. It is expected to be completed in June 2021 and ready for operation by the end of 2021.

Kuee Sheau Shyuan

The architect behind the ongoing project is Ar. Kuee Sheau Shyuan, an Ipoh girl who founded the leading architecture firm, Kuee Architect(s). Ipoh Echo had a one-to-one with her to learn all about her insights into green, sustainable buildings with exquisite quality and functionality – a trending shift which is driven forward all the more during the pandemic.

The ASEAN scholar graduated with first-class honours in Architectural Studies from University of Sheffield in UK before obtaining a postgraduate diploma from The Bartlett School of Architecture of University College London in the same country.

Her passion in designing green buildings was sparked off when she worked with one of the world’s most successful sustainable building architects in London at Foster + Partners for five years: “Led by Sir Norman Foster, the firm has been specialising in designing green buildings since 1967. Throughout those years, I had worked on some of the most interesting green buildings in different parts of the world. For instance, the Masdar zero carbon city in Abu Dhabi, the Zayed Museum in Abu Dhabi and the UAE Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010. Those projects have helped to build my knowledge and confidence in designing green buildings which are both effective, aesthetic and functionally sound.”

By definition, a green building focuses on increasing the efficiency of resource use – energy, water, and materials – while reducing building impact on human health and the environment during the building’s life cycle via better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal. 

“There are many green building rating bodies in the world such as LEED (US), BREEAM (UK), Green Building Index (GBI – Malaysia) and GreenRE (Malaysia). Different bodies cater to different countries with their rating tools designed specifically for the local context and climate among others. For most projects that we work on locally, the clients would adopt the GBI rating tool as it is more widely recognised,” explained Shyuan who is also an accredited GBI Facilitator – a role which entails helping design projects to achieve the client’s desired green rating.

Headquartered in Ipoh with associate offices in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, Kuee Architect(s) has been awarded multiple architecture accreditations for its design works spread across various countries since 2012.

According to Shyuan, the principal architect cum founder of the firm, the first building they designed with green intentions was the Galasa Event Place in Ipoh. It has recently won the PAM (Malaysian Institute of Architects) Award 2020 under the low rise commercial category.

The Galasa Event Place

“The PAM Award 2020 is Malaysia’s highest recognition for architectural excellence so we are very thrilled about it. This building was designed to reduce heat gain from the evening sun using low-E glass panels, thickest insulation for the roof, rain water harvesting system for landscape irrigation purposes etc,” she expressed.

“The client did not apply for an official GBI rating for the project but we considered the design concept as green. We worked together with the energy efficiency engineer, Green Quarter Sdn Bhd, to come up with energy simulations and calculations. By adopting the green concepts, the internal temperature is reduced to up to few degrees Celsius at various times of the day, hence a reduction of energy consumption,” she added.

Shyuan, a registered architect (chartered architect in the UK) also shared on how her team has adapted its green designs to the current COVID-19 pandemic: “The pandemic has made people seek more open spaces. It has always been our drive to create more green breakout spaces within buildings, have more balconies or courtyards, reduce reliance on air-conditioning and have more naturally ventilated spaces. Plus, the pandemic has helped encourage those concepts to grow.”

Regarding the demand for green buildings in Malaysia, she observed: “The awareness in Malaysia is generally still quite lacking. Many developers or private owners still think that green buildings mean planting a lot of trees inside and/or outside the building. As stated in the GBI rating tool, landscape only contributed 1-2% out of 100% in the rating system. Thus, there are many more factors that need to be considered in designing and building a green building.”

“The BVH headquarters will be adopting a raw concept for most of the building materials, featuring exposed concrete floors and walls, exposed bricks and simple, clean lines. Everything is stripped to bare minimum with a high percentage of open spaces and greenery. The building will make use of natural ventilation fully with very little reliance on air-conditioning. Solar panels installed will generate sufficient energy for the entire building usage while high-spec glass throughout will reduce heat gain into the building,” the amiable Shyuan shared.

She pointed out that all GBI buildings are eligible for tax incentives, an initiative the government has introduced to encourage more owners to build their buildings with green intentions.

As her forward-thinking team continues to propel green buildings forward, here is Shyuan’s advice for aspiring green architects: “With all the global warming and other related issues lingering for decades now, we as architects have a more important role than ever to create buildings which will have minimal impact to the environment.”

Interested readers can reach Kuee Architect(s) via its website or Facebook page.

Meanwhile, latest updates on GBI accreditation in Malaysia can be found via the following link: https://www.greenbuildingindex.org/

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Tan Mei Kuan

Tan Mei Kuan graduated with first-class honours and book prize from University of Malaya majoring in languages and linguistics (English). She is proficient in both written and spoken English and Malay. She is also conversant in Mandarin and has knowledge of Japanese and Korean languages. Mei Kuan has been on the Dean’s List for three years running. Having written for the campus newspaper and residential college magazine, joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise her writing and language skills. In her spare time she enjoys running (races).

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