Honeycomb housing is a novel method of arranging multiple units of houses.

Figure 1.1 Houses laid out around a central space to form a small neighbourhood.

he concept I have developed and called Honeycomb Housing is a novel method of arranging multiple units of houses. In conventional schemes, houses are laid out in rows as in the familiar, ubiquitous terraces, but in the Honeycomb layout the houses are placed in circular fashion around a central space to form a small neighbourhood of between 5 to 16 houses. The central spaces are linked to each other and to the main distribution roads by short connecting service roads. The central space — a kind of open courtyard — consists of a culde-sac looping around a communal garden (Figures


Honeycomb Housing
and 1.2). All the houses face the garden like friends sitting around a table. The houses shown are commonly called cluster houses, but I prefer to call them quarter-detached houses (quadruplexes) because there are four houses under one roof, with each one being a corner lot. Two of the houses face the same courtyard; the other two face a different one. Can you see what we have done? We have transformed monotonous terrace houses with small front yards into what appear to be semi-detached houses with generous gardens. The real magic is that we can do all this at no extra cost to the buyers. The cul-de-sac

Chapter 1



honeycomb housing

Figure 1.2 All houses in the neighbourhood face a communal garden.

arrangement is, of course, not new. Neither is the concept of quarter-detached houses. However, when the quarter-detached houses are arranged in a hexagon around a central space with a cul-de-sac they form a pleasant neighbourhood unit. Moreover, the pattern can be expanded to form a much larger neighbourhood made of interlocking units in the shape of a Honeycomb (Figure 1.3 and 1.4). The basic Honeycomb neighbourhood resembles the cul-de-sac, but up to now the cul-de-sac has been used as a specialcase arrangement for either small sites or small parcels of land within a bigger site. The Honeycomb housing concept can apply the basic cul-de-sac arrangement to whole precincts as is shown in the site layout (Figure 1.5). It is strange that such a housing

Figure 1.3 In the quarterdetached block, two houses face one courtyard; the other two face a di erent courtyard.

layout is not already well known. It is, after all, based on a hexagonal grid and
these are common in the fine structure of

inorganic forms, for example those of gems and snowflakes (Figure 1.6). It is found, of

1. honeycomb housing

Figure 1.4 The neighbourhoods can be arranged in an interlocking pattern.

Figure 1.5 A Honeycomb Precinct


honeycomb housing

course, in the bees’ honeycomb. On the other hand there are few, if any, examples of rectangular shapes in nature. This suggests that polygonal forms other than the rectangle are somehow more efficient. Nature is
efficiently organized. Without realizing it we

have imitated nature. We have discovered
a more efficient housing layout contrary to

the ‘common sense’ view of the industry that
nothing can be more efficient than terrace

housing in rows. This is borne out by a comparative analysis of the terrace house layout versus Honeycomb housing. We have found, in case after case, that the Honeycomb
housing layout is the more efficient of the two

Figure 1.6 Snow ake

in terms of land-use. The Honeycomb layout accommodates more housing units per acre of land than the terrace house layout. To architects and planners brought up with the T-square and Set-square, and now hooked on computer grid-lines, this result appears startling. The use of terraces on an iron grid is generally taken to be the cheapest way of providing houses. If you want cheapness, architects and developers are saying, you must accept the commonsense consequences, in particular the boring barrack-like arrangement, requiring hills to
be cut and streams to be filled. Economics,

The Terrace House
The demand for housing in the urban areas of Malaysia has been increasing tremendously in tandem with the country’s transformation from a feudal society to a modern one. According to the Population and Housing Census in 1980, between 1970 and 1980 410 000 people migrated from rural to urban areas, especially the Klang Valley. By 1991 some 51% of Malaysians lived in urban areas; this increased to 61% in 2000 and is expected to reach about 80% in 2020. At the same time a burgeoning middle class and an industrial working class provided more buying power to the rising urban population.

it seems, overrules the social, aesthetic and environmental concerns. However, we are happy to have found that in this case common sense is quite wrong.


1. honeycomb housing

Figure 1.7 A typical terrace of houses.

The Malaysian terrace house plan has been designed and re-designed countless times.

Figure 1.8 A typical terrace house layout.

Since the 60s housing estates have mushroomed all over the country. Sometimes these housing developments have made up whole townships like Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Shah Alam. The main building type in all these developments is the terrace house. The Malaysian terrace house plan has been designed and re-designed many times but always within the same restrictive framework. The typical lot varies from 16’ x 50’ to 24’ x 100’, but the most common lots now are between 20’ x 65’ and 22’ x 70’. Figures 1.7 and 1.8 show typical double storey terrace houses and the layout of such houses; Figures 1.9 and 1.10 show typical

honeycomb housing

Figure 1.9 (left) Ground Floor Plan

Figure 1.10 (right) First Floor Plan — All terrace house designs are variations of this theme.

interior plans. All terrace house designs are variations of these themes. In the typical housing estate, the terrace houses are placed along grid-lines with 40’ service roads in front and narrower back lanes and side lanes. Communal areas for schools and civic and religious buildings, as well as open areas for children’s playgrounds and parks, are also included. Despite the provision of such an infrastructure, the design of many housing estates does not conform to the practical needs of the average resident. Among the drawbacks of terrace housing is the lack of public security and of a genuine sense of

community. In some newer developments these shortcomings have been addressed by providing more ‘organic’ layouts with open green spaces nearer to each house. An example is a development at Bukit Jelutong in Shah Alam, Selangor (Figure 1.11) . Another response is to establish communal spaces between the terrace house blocks as in another development in Selangor (Figure 1.12). However, these two examples are high
priced developments. In the first case the

upgrading of the layout has resulted in lower density and this extra cost is paid for by the consumer.

1. honeycomb housing

Figure 1.11 Low density terrace house layout with a loose ‘organic’ plan form at Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam, Selangor.

In the second case, the house purchaser does not receive a simple land title, but ends up with a group or strata-title, where several residents share ownership of and responsibility for a bigger piece of land. Whatever the drawbacks of the ordinary rows of terrace houses, they remain the most common form of landed property development in Malaysia. Indeed for many people a terrace house is their dream home. As land becomes scarcer and more expensive, the price of terrace houses becomes higher and higher. Many people
can now only afford flats or apartments. This

is a pity.

Figure 1.12 High density clustered terrace houses where communal spaces are created between blocks in Desa Park, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.


honeycomb housing

Figure 1.13 Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire in England, built in the 16th century for farm workers, was probably the rst such terrace.

Terrace houses have a long and
successful history. The first of them can be

found in Bibury, Gloucestershire, England. Arlington Row, shown in Figure 1.13, was built in the 16th century for farm workers. At that time it must have been a dream home for them. Still standing now, Arlington Row looks prettier than many terrace houses we have built for highly-paid middle class
families five centuries later in Malaysia.

Let us now look at the sociological, aesthetic and environmental problems of the typical terrace house layout. While terrace housing has advantages
in respect of cost and efficiency of land use,

Shortcomings of Terrace Housing

The terrace house may have reached an evolutionary dead-end.

social features suffer. In a terrace housing estate, the road is the public space that fronts each house and it is designed for the car rather than the pedestrian, rendering it less suitable for social interaction and unsuitable as a play area for smaller children. The road is also a public domain, accessible not only to the residents and their guests, but also to uninvited strangers and potential criminals.

The terrace house has reached an evolutionary deadend after five



1. honeycomb housing

The longer and the more interconnected
the roads, inviting faster traffic and intruders,

Terrace housing may have advatanges in of land use but social features suffer.
cost and efficiency

the more unsafe is the public space just outside each house. There may be public amenities like playgrounds and green areas in the housing estate, but they may be streets away, unsuitable for the smaller children to go to on their own, and being public areas, subject to vandalism and neglect. Social and human factors play the major role in creating good neighbourhoods but housing design can also play a part, contributing to social cohesion if it is good, but to social dysfunction if it is poor. Let us turn to studies that relate to three issues:
• The influence of the built environment on

the level of social interaction.
• The design features of housing that can

reduce the incidence of crime.
• The role of the environment outside the

home and its effect on the pre-school child.
The Influence of the Built Environment on the Level of Social Interaction

this sense of loss shared by many of his countrymen. To answer this question, we can refer to the work of Jan Gehl who wrote ‘Life between Buildings’ in 1971. Gehl distinguishes between necessary, optional and social activities in public spaces. By necessary activities he means those that are more or less compulsory — going to school or to work, shopping, waiting for a bus or a person, running errands — in other words, all activities in which those involved are to a greater or lesser degree required to participate. Optional activities happen where there is a wish to do something and time and place make it possible. This category includes such activities as window shopping, taking a walk to get a breath of fresh air, jogging, or just sitting around. While necessary activities take place regardless of the quality of the physical environment, optional activities depend to
a significant degree on what the place has

Why should the terrace house estate lack a ‘genuine sense of community’ despite the provision of communal facilities like a surau, a multi-purpose hall, playground equipment, etc.? Certainly, the new migrants to the urban areas in Malaysia generally miss the sense of neighbourhood found in the kampongs and small towns they come from. The cartoonist Lat has been so celebrated partly because he taps into

to offer and how it makes people behave and feel about it. The better a place, the more optional activity occurs and the longer necessary activity lasts. Social activities depend on the quality and length of the other types of activities, because they occur spontaneously when people meet in a particular place. Social activities include children’s play, greetings and conversations, communal activities of various kinds, and simply seeing and hearing other people.

honeycomb housing

Communal spaces in cities and residential areas become meaningful and attractive when all activities of all types occur in combination and feed off each other. In streets and city spaces of poor quality, only the bare minimum of activity takes place. People hurry home. In a good environment, according to Gehl, a completely different, broad spectrum of human activities is possible.
In the early days of urbanization, the

streets laid out in terraces were full of people going about their business. People walked the streets to get around regardless of the quality of the external space. Optional activities grew out of this crowd of people, and streets became a social as well as a functional arena. As people go about their business, they can hardly avoid contact with other people; out of this most basic type of social interaction would grow a sense of neighbourhood. Today’s streets in the typical terrace house situation reveal a distinctly different pattern. Society has become much more dependent on the car. There is no need to walk the streets, transit is mainly by car. In the car there is less
need or opportunity to socialize. Moreover,

Crime and Public Safety

Social Economy Domestic Unemployment Politics and Education Moral Problems

Figure 1.14 A national survey dertermined crime was the biggest worry.

the noise and fumes from vehicles speeding past make the streets less pleasant to use. People hurry through them, if they venture out at all, and the street becomes a social void. The terrace house layout, which once worked adequately, and was providing streets that served as social arenas no longer does
so in this motorized age.

The issue of public security in residential areas was a hot topic in July 2004. In a national survey conducted by Merdeka Centre and Ikmas (Institute of Malaysian and International Studies), 42% of Malaysians surveyed at that time said crime was their biggest worry. Crime is no doubt mainly linked to social factors (Figure 1.14), but there is a body of work that has found clear links between crime and the environment where crimes happen. This is the ‘Defensible Space’ concept which evolved some 40 years ago when American architect Oscar

The Design Features of Housing That Can Reduce the Incidence of Crime


1. honeycomb housing

Newman was witness to the terminal decline of the newly constructed, 3000-unit, public housing high-rise development, PruittIgoe. The project was designed by eminent architects and was hailed as a shining example of Modern Architecture, following the planning principles of Le Corbusier (Figure 1.15). Residents were raised into the air in eleven-story buildings so as to
keep the grounds and the first floor free for

community activity. The buildings were given
communal corridors on every third floor to

Figure 1.15 Pruitt Igoe was hailed as a shining example of Modern Architecture.

house rooms for laundry, storage, garbage, and communal activities. Newman saw how the design proved a disaster. The common areas, which were

Figure 1.16 Pruitt Igoe, a 3000 unit public housing high-rise development, was demolished only 10 years after its construction, owing to social problems.


honeycomb housing

dissociated from all units, were unsafe. They were soon covered with glass and
garbage. The mailboxes on the ground floor were vandalized. The corridors, lobbies,

elevators, and stairs were dangerous places
to walk through, and were covered in graffiti

and littered with garbage and human waste. The elevators, laundries, and community
rooms were vandalized, and garbage

modestly perhaps, but with great pride. Why was there such a difference between the interior of the apartment and the public spaces outside it? From this and other examples of contrasting situations, Newman concluded that residents maintained,
controlled, and identified with those areas

was stacked high around the non-working garbage chutes. Women had to get together in groups to take their children to school or go shopping. The project was torn down some ten years after its construction (Figure

Across the street from Pruitt-Igoe was Carr Square Village, an older, smaller, rowhouse complex occupied by an essentially identical population. It remained fully occupied and trouble-free throughout the construction, occupancy, and decline of Pruitt-Igoe. With the social variables constant in the two developments, what,
Newman asked himself, was the significance

of the physical differences that had enabled one to survive while the other fell apart? Walking through Pruitt-Igoe when crime and vandalism were pervasive, he could only wonder: What kind of people live here? However, within the development there were occasional pockets that were clean, safe, and well-tended. These were found where only two families shared a landing. If one could get oneself invited into an apartment, one found it well maintained — furnished

that were clearly demarcated as their own. Landings shared by only two families were well maintained, whereas corridors shared by 20 families, and lobbies, elevators, and stairs shared by 150 families were disasters — they evoked no feelings of identity or control. Such anonymous public spaces made it impossible for residents to develop an accord on what was acceptable behaviour in these areas, impossible for them to experience or exert proprietary feelings, impossible to tell resident from intruder. Oscar Newman looked at these questions in his book, Defensible Space in 1972, and said that the key was to make residents become the critical agents in their own security.
Newman believed that firstly, design

Newman concluded that residents maintained, controlled and
identified with those

areas that were clearly demarcated as their own.

should propagate ‘natural surveillance’, generating opportunities for people to see and be seen continuously. Knowing that they are, or could be, watched makes residents feel less anxious, leads them to use an area more and deters criminals by making them
fear being identified and caught.

Secondly, people must not only watch but also be willing to intervene or report

1. honeycomb housing

crime when it occurs. Newman proposed reducing anonymity and increasing territorial
feelings by dividing larger spaces into zones

Newman also concluded that rates of crime, vandalism and turnover were lower in places that conformed to the principles of defensible space.

of influence. This can be accomplished on a small scale by clustering a few apartments around a common entrance. On a larger scale individual yards or areas can be demarcated by having paths and recreational areas focus around a small set of apartment units, or by having each building entry serve only a limited number of apartments. Thus he envisaged the architect creating in residential areas an intricate hierarchy of public, semi-public, semi-private and private domains, as illustrated in Figure

Newman considered man as a territorial being, as a being that needs territory as he needs water, in order to be able to live a satisfactory life. He posited that man is not basically criminal — preferring social cohesiveness to anarchy, social harmony to tension. Providing surveillance over defensible spaces allows man to be in his natural state, surveying and defending his domain. Newman and his followers tested these ideas by studying housing developments in cities across the USA, from New York to San Francisco, and concluded that rates of crime, vandalism and turnover were lower in places that conformed to the principles of

Figure 1.17 Oscar Newman in Defensible Space argued for design strategies to change the public spaces around homes from ‘no man’s land’ into ‘shared’ spaces.


honeycomb housing

defensible space. In a variety of large and small cities, housing projects and urban neighbourhoods have been redesigned in accord with defensible space principles. While the results have not been consistent, reductions in crime and fear and increases in a sense of community have been found in several places. The concept of Defensible Space enabled residents to take back control of their neighbourhoods and reduce crime. The problem with the typical terrace house situation is that the street outside the gate is considered ‘no man’s land’. Residents of terrace houses have no control over the space just outside their homes, over the people who use it or what they do — similarly with the green spaces, the social amenities provided by the developer or government. There is no sense of ownership, and they therefore fall victim to neglect and vandalism. Using Oscar Newman’s analysis it is understandable why, but also it is possible to think of how to overcome this problem.
The Role of the Environment

chord, and these childhood memories are in sharp contrast to the experience of small children in the present day. They are cosseted in their homes, ferried around to kindergarten, to music classes, and to playgrounds to play with friends, all under the close supervision of the parents or a maid. Play outside on the streets? Never! It’s too dangerous! A lecturer in my university when I was an undergraduate student in Cardiff, Wales had an interesting insight. Charles Mercer in his book Living in Cities (1975), cited the work of Lee
Rainwater (1966) and John and Elizabeth

outside the Home and Its Effect
on the Pre-School Child

The protagonist in the best of Lat’s cartoons is the pre-school child, named, well, Lat. His experience of growing up in his village community with family and childhood friends is by no means unique. Many fellow Malaysians of my generation have similar memories. Lat’s cartoons strike a common

Newson (1968) and proposed that play is an important aid to learning for the child; growing up can be seen as a process, where the child becomes more and more independent of the parents, exploring first the spaces around the mother and progressing to other rooms in the house, the front yard, and beyond. Mercer believes that the opportunity for exploring a new environment is best presented in small, discrete steps so that children can explore them at their own pace (Figure 1.18). The problem with the typical situation in urban Malaysia is that the process of exploring new territory independent of the parents stops at the front gate. It is not considered safe beyond that. When the child is finally old enough to go out unaccompanied by an adult the transition is too big and he is disadvantaged as compared to a child that was able to explore bit by bit the neighbourhood around the home.

Mercer believes that the opportunity for exploring a new environment is best presented in small, discrete steps.

1. honeycomb housing

Figure 1.18 We must design safe playing areas outside the house that are free from tra c hazard and crime, and are suitable for our children of preschool and early school age.

Spaces outside the home should be made favourable to the growing-up process.

This suggests that the spaces outside the home should be made favourable to the growing-up process. They should be safe for smaller children with ample facilities for
play. Football fields several minutes away

private zones friendly to children and

pedestrians, for instance by incorporating looping roads or culs-de-sac, or by placing green spaces in front of each house, the
efficiency of land use is reduced.

from the home do not serve this function. The ideas from these areas of study reinforce each other very well and can be incorporated in a diagram (Figure 1.19) developed from Oscar Newman’s Figure 1.17 . The semi-private and semi-public spaces are shown in green, signifying play areas safe for small children. It is possible to design child-friendly terrace housing. However, whenever attempts are made to modify the road network to create more exclusive, semi-

This increases the cost of the development and renders it either unaffordable to the public or commercially unfeasible. So the welfare of children ends up being
sacrificed for economics.

Similarly, where cost is a priority, as it is most of the time, the aesthetic features of
the row housing suffer, because efficiency of

land use has the following requirements:• rectangular plots of land • narrow frontages, the narrower the better. • regular façade lines, the straighter the


honeycomb housing

The more irregular the shape of housing units, the wider their frontage,
the more articulated the façade, the more

and every blade of grass is sacrificed for

expensive the development becomes. The long block of terrace houses does
not fit well on naturally sloping or undulating sites. It is cheaper to decapitate hills, and fill valleys and streams to provide relatively flat platforms for them. Rev up the bulldozer!

Earthworks are cheaper than the extra construction cost of building a row of terrace houses on different levels. The economic need for level land is a particularly grave disadvantage of terrace housing. The natural terrain and environment of hills and
valleys are flattened and natural streams

economics. The technical challenge, therefore, is to invent a novel method of planning repetitive housing, resulting in new types of housing units and layout that can overcome the social, aesthetic and environmental shortcomings of row housing, but which meet the test of commercial viability, in keeping down the cost of land, infrastructure and earthworks, and rendering the new types of houses affordable. In particular
the challenge is to find a viable alternative

to the terrace house as the most costefficient building type for landed property

The technical challenge in planning repetitive housing lies in the need to solve social, aesthetic and environmental problems, while still controlling costs and achieving affordability.

are replaced with concrete drains. Every tree, every natural feature of the landscape

development. These are the technical and economic challenges facing Honeycomb Housing.

Figure 1.19 The housing layout comprises a hierarchy of public, semi-public, semi private and private spaces. It is intended to give residents a sense of ownership of communal spaces, reduce the dominance of vehicle tra c in the residential areas, and provide green spaces where they are most wanted, in front of houses.



The Basic Concept of Honeycomb Housing
oneycomb housing is the product of a new way of designing town plan layouts. I call it the ‘tessellation’ method of design. In mathematics the meaning of the word ‘tessellate’ is to cover a plane with a pattern having no gaps and no overlapping.
When tiles are fitted together to fill a flat

Chapter 2


mathematical rules are satisfied.

Tessellation Method of Design

area, this is tessellation. The tiles can be square or of other shapes so long as the

The commonly existing plan, with individual housing units repeated to form blocks, and the blocks repeated to form rows of blocks could be described as a tessellation on a rectangular pattern (although that is not how those familiar with the art look at it). Houses, be they terraces, semi-Ds or bungalows, are built on rectangular plots of land.

Figure 2.1 Three types of regular tessellation.


honeycomb housing

However tessellating rectangles are but a small subset of all possible tessellations. Figures 2.1 and 2.2 show some basic types of tessellation. Tessellations of just a few basic tile designs can result in complex and beautiful patterns. Figure 2.3 illustrates an Islamic tile pattern. This tessellation can mesmerize us with the effect of its complicated overlayed patterns, but the complexity is achieved by assembling just one type of square tile with the same decorative pattern (Figure 2.4). Such is the creative power of tessellation. Now imagine the tessellation concept applied to town planning and the design of housing layouts. Using this method, the patterns on each tile are not mere decorations. The coloured areas on the tile represent actual land, roads, houses, gardens, communal green areas, or any other feature to be designed. In this way a method used to generate pure art forms, is used to create functional architecture. The range of tile designs used in tessellation planning and shown in this book is rather limited, with emphasis on hexagonal units, partly to make it easier for the reader to grasp this new concept. However, were the reader to survey the range of tile designs produced throughout history, in the crafts, in mathematics and in art, he would marvel at the range of possibilities. The work of the Dutch artist, Escher, is a good place to start (Figure 2.5). As for mathematicians, try Kepler (Figure 2.6). Yet, it is very strange that, to our best

Figure 2.2 Simple examples of irregular tessellation.

knowledge, the concept of tessellation has never been applied to the field of town planning, or to help in the measurement and subdivision of land, an activity which has been going on everywhere since early civilization. Indeed the word geometry, derived from Greek, literally means ‘earth measurement’, so it is appropriate that tessellation, a geometrical concept, should now be applied to the arrangement of houses on land! The simple tessellation of regular hexagons provides an excellent shape for a basic neighbourhood. In the example shown in Figure 2.7, it comprises several housing units clustered around a looping cul-de-sac and communal garden.

The Hexagon

2. the basic concept of honeycomb housing

Figure 2.3 Islamic (Moorish) Tile Pattern

Figure 2.4 The seemingly complex pattern in Figure 2.3 is achieved by tessellating a single basic tile design.


honeycomb housing

Figure 2.5 (left) An example of tessellation by Escher.

Figure 2.6 (right) Another example by Kepler.

Figure 2.7 A hexagonal neighbourhood tile comprising housing units, roads and green areas, tesselated from a single tile.


2. the basic concept of honeycomb housing

The polygon that contains this basic neighbourhood arrangement is then tessellated. This process creates a jigsaw pattern consisting of lots containing the houses as well as the roads and public spaces. The result is a housing layout (Figure 2.8) that is completely different from row housing in the following respects:• The shape and arrangement of the

The shape of the individual housing

lots, the relationship between adjoining housing lots and the potential for linkages between them.
• The complex arrangement made up of

only two basic triangular tile patterns.

external spaces between the housing units, including the distribution of the public spaces and the network of roads.

Figure 2.8 The basic neighbourhood tile is tessellated to form the layout of a housing precinct.



The External Spaces
his chapter deals with the shape and arrangement of the spaces between the housing units, the distribution of public spaces and the pattern of the network of roads. The external spaces created by the tessellation design method can be described
in terms of quality and quantity. Let me first

Chapter 3


Hierarchical Structure of Public Spaces

describe the road network from a qualitative aspect.

The Road Network
Distribution Road Service Road Roundabout Service Road Cul-de-sac Service Road Cul-de-sac

The central courtyards, culs-de-sac and connecting roads, join together to form a hierarchical structure of public spaces and roads. The hierarchical structure of the roads can be described as follows: In the example of the tessellated layout given in the preceding chapter (Figure 2.8), the distribution road is the busy main road. The network of roads below this level consists of short stretches of connecting roads, roundabouts and culs-de-sac; these
features slow the speed of traffic, in contrast

with existing road patterns that arise from row housing. In fact the higher the level of hierarchy,
the larger the volume of traffic, and the greater

the priority given to the car. Lower down the hierarchy the rights of the pedestrian become predominant. We can also look at the road network as a structured hierarchy determined by levels of accessibility. The more accessible

honeycomb housing

a place, the more public it is and, conversely, the less accessible the place, the more private it becomes. This structured hierarchy of public, semi-public and semi-private zones is an important feature achieved by tessellation planning. This is the type of environment that can create ‘defensible spaces’ as conceived by Oscar Newman (1972), discussed in my Chapter 1 and illustrated in Figures 1.17 and 1.19.

This structured hierarchy is further emphasized by the distribution of green areas and public amenities such as places of worship,kindergartens, community halls, etc. At the base of the hierarchy, just outside the front door of the house, is the front yard. This area, although belonging to the house owner, is nevertheless semiprivate in nature because it is not visually shielded from neighbours. Residents going about their routine in their front yards can see and be seen by the neighbours. Thus the front yard is a good platform for social interaction.

The Green Areas and Public Amenities

Next up in the hierarchy is the open courtyard: a single road enters it and loops around the central garden. The courtyard is 112 feet (34 metres) across, which size is on the scale Jan Gehl (1971) thought

The Courtyard

suitable for human interaction. Within 100 feet (30metres) the eye can discern the facial features of people one meets infrequently and within 60 – 80 feet (20-25 metres) most people can perceive relatively clearly the feelings and moods of others. The size of the courtyard is therefore appropriate for a semi-public area. Friends will be greeted, strangers queried. This will discourage petty criminals. The central gardens are between 2000 and 3000 square feet (200 to 300 square metres), large enough for high trees and benches or simple playground equipment. Mediumsized trees could be planted along the culsde-sac, just outside the front boundaries of the houses (Figure 3.1). When the trees in the courtyard have grown to medium height they will be shading the area and modifying the micro climate, making it more suitable for human recreational use. In sharp contrast to conventional row housing, the tessellated layouts make it possible to provide communal gardens in front of every house economically. Through traffic is eliminated; cars are forced to slow down: the culs-de-sac becomes safe for smaller pre-school children. Thus, it is possible to provide such children with the opportunity to play safely just outside their homes, within the relatively distant visual surveillance of their parents. Such an arrangement, according to Charles Mercer (1975), makes for a better growing-up environment.

Size of Courtyards

Communal Gardens

3. the external spaces

Figure 3.1 The central courtyard in a Honeycomb neighbourhood.


honeycomb housing

Next up the hierarchy are the public amenities like the surau, community hall, kindergarten, or the public parks that serve the larger neighbourhood. With conventional row housing, it is only at this level of the hierarchy that the public amenities and green area start to be provided. As we
have seen, this is insufficient to foster good

organic the plan, the less efficient the layout

becomes in terms of land usage.

The Road Network and
Land-Use Efficiency
The economic efficiency of a road network

neighbourhoods, where the communal amenities are required at a lower level of the hierarchy. As has been shown, it is possible to achieve this with tessellation housing. Of course it is also possible to achieve the characteristics of a good neighbourhood; in the sense that Gehl, Newman and Mercer variously advocate, by adapting conventional methods of designing row housing. But the more irregular, the more

in a housing scheme can be assessed by determining the ratio of the total area of roads to the total area of the development. In this way, a theoretical site with a tessellation layout is compared with one of terrace houses on a site of similar area. The layouts of both schemes are according to
their respectively most efficient forms, the

row housing being laid out in an iron grid, the tessellated housing forming a hexagon. A table of comparison is given on the following page.

Figure 3.2 An example of an ‘e cient’ theoretical terrace house layout.


3. the external spaces

Figure 3.3 An example of a theoretical Honeycomb layout.

shows the conventional terrace house layout and Figure 3.3 the tessellated Honeycomb layout. The results may be summarized as follows: The land-use efficiency is greatly increased. The number of units in each layout is the same but the tessellated layout produces an increase in average lot size of 30 per cent.
Figure 3.2

These results must appear startling to architects and town planners, who have assumed for so long that terraces are the
most efficient form of layout for repetitive

housing in terms of density (units per acre). It is also instructive to look at and study the layout of a single neighbourhood of 16 units, then in more detail 5 of the units.

honeycomb housing

Figure 3.4 (left) 16 Units of Quadruplexes and Duplexes

Figure 3.5 (right) 16 Terrace Houses

Figure 3.6 (left) 5 Units of Quadruplexes and Duplexes

Figure 3.7 (right) 5 Terrace Houses


3. the external spaces

The basic neighbourhood comprising 16 units of quadruplexes and 4 duplexes* is compared with a terrace house arrangement of an equivalent 16 terrace houses (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). The ratio of the areas of the roads to the green spaces, is determined. It is demonstrated in the table above that the
Honeycomb layout makes more efficient use

of land.

less area for roads (23% of the total) than does terrace housing (35%). The land saved is distributed to give each house a larger garden. The area for houses and their garden is 70% of the total, up from 58 per cent. Looking in closer detail, by making a 5-unit comparison (Figures 3.6 and 3.7), it is again clear that the Honeycomb layout
is more efficient with less land occupied

Result : Honeycomb housing uses

than row housing with through roads, but the advantage is slight (in that very little road space is saved) and is offset by the inconvenience caused to drivers who enter the dead end by mistake and have to turn out again. This service road can be reduced by shortening it. However, this results in an uneven distribution of land area and shapes that are unsuitable for linked houses, as is found in existing cul-de-sac developments. The odd-shaped lots are not considered desirable (Figure 3.9), and accordingly, such developments are comparatively rare. An even distribution of land area and shape is achievable by having the cul-de-sac serve a circular piece of land (Figure 3.10).
This is an efficient subdivision with access

by roads and more land for houses and gardens. Result: Honeycomb housing uses 15% less road area than terrace housing and the land saved is used to provide a larger garden for each house. This also increases the saleable house land from 52% to 67 per cent.

Why is Honeycomb Housing
More Land-Efficient?
The Honeycomb layout makes more
efficient use of land.

provided to each residential lot. However, a circle does not tessellate (Figure 3.11). As can be seen, a lot of space is wasted since the circles only touch at a point. A better alternative is, of course, the hexagon. The shape provides both an even distribution of land area and uniform shapes. Furthermore, the hexagon can tessellate. Compared with a neighbourhood (served by a cul-de-sac) which has the shape of a rectangle or square, a hexagonal one, being closer in shape to the circle, is
more efficient.

In a conventional housing layout, a cul-de-sac is a special case of a row of houses (Figure 3.8). It is more efficient
* On duplexes, see page 129.

When the design of the basic neighbourhood incorporates the most economical road access pattern, that is the cul-de-sac, and when this pattern is

honeycomb housing

Figure 3.8 (left) Cul-de-sac at the end of a row of houses.

Figure 3.9 (right) A shortened culde-sac creates undesirable and uneven lot shapes.

Figure 3.10 (left) A more even distribution of lots is achieved by a culde-sac in a circular lot.

Figure 3.11 (right) Circles do not tessellate, so there are gaps.

repeated, the result is a housing layout where the ratio of the area of roads to the total development area is quite low. This
results in high land-use efficiency. In the

as the iron grid can be modified to fit given

above case study on p.106 of a theoretical development, terrace housing uses 47% of the land for roads against only 33% for Honeycomb housing. This has great appeal to developers since they can only sell land and gardens: they don’t sell roads. It is worth reminding the reader that the comparisons made above are between the properties of two generic designs.
Honeycomb housing in its most efficient

site conditions, and to achieve improved effects (but at a cost) so can the basic form of tessellation housing. Indeed, using the tessellation method of planning, but with different tile designs and
modified procedures a variety of forms may

be generated.

form is compared with row housing in its
most efficient form, i.e. on an iron grid. Just



The Housing Units
aving looked at the external spaces comprising road and green areas, let us now look at the individual housing units and the lots they sit on. This chapter describes the shape of the individual lots, the relationship between adjoining lots and the potential for linkages between them and between the housing units. The shape and dimensions of a housing
lot evidently influence the design of the

Chapter 4


To maximize usage of such land, the buildings must also follow or approximate to the funnel shape of the sites. The geometry
of the most efficient building form on such


building erected on it. The characteristics of the generic forms of buildings on Honeycomb residential lots, shaped like chopped-off triangles, will necessarily be different from those of conventional housing on rectangular lots. In particular the generic house types exhibited in Figure 4.1 relate to a quadrilateral with the shortest side facing the central courtyard and the longest side at the back.

a site contrasts with that on a rectangular site. The differences can be illustrated. A typical bungalow lot of 6000 sq ft (558 sq m) in a conventional layout is compared with a typical bungalow lot of the same size in a Honeycomb layout. Both typical lots are subjected to the current Malaysian 10 feet setback requirement, which determines the maximum footprint allowable. These footprints or plinths are compared in Figures 4.1 and 4.2.

The maximum plinth area of the Honeycomb bungalow lot is 2510 sq ft (233 sq m), as compared to that of a bungalow on a conventional lot, which is 2400 sq ft

Maximum Plinth Area

honeycomb housing

Figure 4.1 The Honeycomb housing lot, subject to the same setback requirements, produces a higher buildable area than the conventional 60’ x 100’ lot.

Figure 4.2 The Honeycomb housing lot provides a wider building frontage than the conventional 60’ x 100’ lot.

(223 sq m). The maximum plinth area on the Honeycomb lot is 100 sq ft (10 sq m) bigger, a gain of 4.6 per cent.

This ratio compares the length of the front elevation with that of the side elevation. In the tessellated bungalow this is 1.8; for the conventional bungalow (small front and long side) it is less than 0.6. These calculations have practical importance; they allow architects to design more attractive houses, with wide frontages (Figures 4.3 and 4.4).

The Elevation Ratio

Honeycomb layouts contain housing lots whose basic shapes support various permutations or combinations of different types of housing units. The relationship between a house-lot and the adjoining ones allows the housing block on it to remain detached or to link up. In this way, the tessellation design method can include detached houses but can also create several new generic linked house types as follows:
• • • • Duplex house Triplex house Quadruplex house Sextuplex house


These are shown in Figure 4.5.


4. the housing units

Figure 4.3 A narrow-frontage house on 60’ x 100’ land.

Figure 4.4 A wide-frontage back-to-back duplex on 3200 square feet of land.


honeycomb housing





Figure 4.5 Types of units in Honeycomb Housing


4. the housing units

The duplex house is the Honeycomb counterpart of the semi-detached house. However, the duplex house naturally favours a back-to-back instead of a side-to-side linkage. It is possible to link semi-detached
houses back-to-back in the efficient row


The triplex is a house type composed of three units linked back-to-back (Figure 4.6), with each house accessed from a different cul-de-sac. The triplex is a novel generic house type that has no application in row housing. Its invention is a result of the tessellation method of designing housing layouts. Each house, looked at from its respective entrance, presents itself as a detached house. Each is accessed from a different cul-de-sac. (Figure 4.6)


housing layout, but this results in a short party wall and narrow front elevation. For best economy the shared party wall needs to be as long as possible. As illustrated (Figures 4.3 and 4.4) the Honeycomb duplex on 3200 sq ft (288 sq m) looks better than the narrow-frontage bungalow on 6000 sq ft (558 sq m) of land. Each duplex house is accessed from separate culs-de-sac; as can be seen in Figure 4.4, from the entrance the duplex looks like a detached house.

Figure 4.6 Triplex Houses


honeycomb housing

Figure 4.7 Cluster House with 4 units

The quadruplex is a house type composed of four units linked back-to-back and side-toside. It is the Honeycomb equivalent of the cluster house which is illustrated in Figures 4.7 and 4.8. Because each quadruplex has two party walls, it is also the equivalent of the terrace house, in terms of construction cost per square foot. Party walls are walls that are shared between two units; the more party walls there are, the cheaper the construction cost. For a long time, I have designed and promoted cluster houses as a better alternative to the terrace house, but without much success, for two reasons:• The cluster house has two party walls, but

The cluster house layout cannot fit in as

many units on each hectare of land as the terrace house layout. However, using the cluster house in tessellated layouts overcomes these two drawbacks. The ‘cluster house’ (now called
quadriplex or Quarter-D) has both long back-

to-back and side-to-side party walls. And as shown in the previous section, the effective density is better than that of the terrace house layout.

generally the length of the party wall in the equivalent terrace house is longer.

The housing arrangement that produced the triplex can also be designed as a sextuplex, i.e. a block of six houses, each with its own access, two houses sharing a cul-de-sac. As with the triplex, the sextuplex is a novel house type created by the tessellation method of design (Figure 4.9).


The sextuplex is created by the tessellation method of design.

4. the housing units

Figure 4.8 Cluster houses laid out in rows.

The Environmental Aspect
As shown above, the linkages arising from the tessellation design method avoid the long rows of terrace houses. The duplex and triplex present themselves as ‘detached’ units, the quadruplex and sextuplex, as ‘corner’ units. Apart from the aesthetic aspect, there are advantages that result from the fact that the linked tessellated houses have compact footprints. One of the reasons why the tessellated quadruplex is able to match the density of
the terrace house is its efficient footprint. As

are no internal voids (e.g. airwells) and
generally, I aim for compact shapes that fit

well in a circle, or of course, a hexagon! A small footprint has its own rewards. This has to do with earthworks and the foundations of buildings. Blocks with small footprints require small earth platforms. Blocks with big footprints require larger earth platforms. A series of small earth platforms
generally involve less cutting and filling than

a series of larger platforms cut out from the
same original slope profile (Figure 4.10).

The quadruplex has
an efficient footprint.

an architect I make sure that, by contrast with most cluster house designs, there

From the same illustration it is also intuitively clear that it is easier to arrange blocks which have a compact footprint to sit on cut ground than it is to arrange

honeycomb housing

Figure 4.9 Sextuplex Houses

row housing blocks to meet this same requirement. Having original ground to sit
on rather than filled ground can save a lot

than terrace house blocks provide greater
flexibility in external layout design, requiring

in foundation costs. Of course terrace houses can be arranged along contours to minimize
earthworks, though this limits the flexibility

of the layout and is not effective where the land slopes in two directions. Another possibility is to stagger the terrace houses down the slope.This requires retaining walls and the doubling up of beams in party walls, which again adds cost, and reduces standardization. Therefore it can be said that, generally, quadruplex blocks with smaller footprints

less earthworks and giving lower foundation costs. Another factor to consider when looking at the compact footprints of tessellated linked houses is the distribution of green spaces, both private and communal. Every house has green space on two or more sides, i.e. the side yards and back yard or front yard as follows:
Detached house Duplex, triplex green all around green on three sides

Quadruplex blocks provide greater

Quadruplex & sextuplex

green on two sides.

4. the housing units

Figure 4.10 Blocks with small footprints can better t a sloping area.

Honeycomb houses are surrounded by an even distribution of green.

Furthermore, the private green areas within the house compound are contiguous with the neighbour’s private green areas and these are close to the public green areas in the central open courtyard. Honeycomb houses are set among green areas; terrace houses are surrounded by other houses, a front road and a back lane, resulting in what has been aptly termed a ‘concrete jungle’. By comparison with the situation of terrace houses, the diffuse distribution of green around Honeycomb houses will provide more shade and thereby improve the micro-climatic conditions around the houses.

Additionally, where the green areas are contiguous rather than separated from each other by concrete houses and roads there is a greater opportunity for the natural
propagation of flora and fauna. Species of flora can be pollinated and

spread their seeds more easily. Similarly, animal species like birds and insects can move more easily from area to area, rather than being marooned in an isolated park. The more even distribution of green found in the tessellated layout can thus promote a higher degree of biodiversity in the urban or suburban environment.


Chapter 5
Pioneer Project Kuching, Sarawak

Most Common Obstacle

y the end of 2004, I had been able to present the Thermal Comfort Honeycomb idea to several consultants and developers including CEO’s of top companies like Bandar Sunway, Country Heights, UM Land, Metro Kajang and Talam. The typical response to my presentations was interest and attention, but not quite wholehearted endorsement. At the same time there were no fatal objections. The most common obstacle was ‘I like this idea, but I’m not sure “someone else” will accept this.’ This ‘someone else’ was someone out there, somebody who was not in the audience at that particular time. So, the engineer would say, ‘...I’m not sure the architect will like this’; the architect would say ‘...I’m not sure the developer would like this’; the developer would say, ‘...I’m not sure the authorities would like this’; the authorities would say ‘…I’m not sure the house-buyer would like this’, and so it went on. This obstacle was


not only difficult but it could also be elusive,

given the fact that many parties are involved in the industry’s value chain, that it is highly regulated, and that the delivery process is very risky. In Malaysia, as in most other countries, the housing industry involves many players. There are many steps in the delivery process, and at each step, many parties may be involved, starting with the land owner, land broker, developer, town planner, architect, various sorts of engineers, the main contractor, sub-contractors, banks
and financiers, local authorities, various

government departments, utility companies, estate agents, sales and marketing people, and not forgetting the house-buyers. The developer is perceived as the main mover in the value chain, but, the housing market is very fragmented. No developer controls more than 10% of it. Success in any particular geographical location is no

honeycomb housing

guarantee of success in another location: the local knowledge and standing of the developer is absolutely critical. In addition, developers would often complain that they are at the mercy of the approving authorities. The housing industry is also very highly regulated. At any location, the power to delay or veto a proposal is dispersed amongst many approving bodies. Furthermore, there are over a hundred local authorities, and rules and procedures are often not as standardized as they should be. Finally, the developers face a real risk of failure – witness the abandoned projects. Not getting any one component right can cause the delivery process to jam after considerable resources have been poured in. Failure can be extremely punishing and therefore developers have to be cautious. Developers were all impressed by the Honeycomb idea, but had serious worries about the feasibility and cost, and about the marketability but, most importantly, about whether the plans could be approved. We had gone a long way in
addressing the first issue through number

crunching analysis, and the second through market studies. But the potential problem of
getting approvals was particularly difficult

to overcome. In November of 2004 I presented a paper on ‘Honeycomb Housing’ at the Affordable Quality Housing Conference organized by the Institute of Engineers, Miri Branch. I had the chance to hear Sarawak’s

Minister of Housing, YB Dato Seri Abang Zohari speak. I was very impressed by his provocative challenge to the housing industry, in particular to architects, to improve the quality of low cost housing. In this meeting, the Minister, barely six months into his new portfolio, gave a searing critique of the quality of ‘low-cost’ housing (‘future slums lacking in the human touch’) that produced a lot of red faces in the audience. This was the opportunity Opportunity Arises that Peter Davis and I were waiting for. The trouble with Peninsular Malaysia is that there are just too many people that need to be convinced. This was where we found an advantage in Sarawak. We could see that after just a few months it would be possible to get a consensus. In that time we would be able to present our case to just about everyone of consequence. We could also sense that the State is well managed under strong political leadership, and if we could convince it that tessellation planning was something good that should be done, the political leadership could knock heads together and make things happen! We soon wrote to the Minister telling him of the work that Arkitek M Ghazali and UPM had done since 1999. On the 20th January 2005, we met the Minister, his Meeting the Chief
Ministry officials and officers of the Housing


Development Corporation. YB Dato Seri Abang Zohari immediately arranged for us to give a presentation at the 1st Housing Co-ordination Meeting the next week.

5. pioneer project kuching sarawak


Existing 20 Blocks Apartments Education (Primary Scooh)

Community Centre

Single Storey Detached Houses

Single Storey Semi-detached Houses

Existing Terrace Houses Single Storey Terrace Houses Green

Figure 5.1 Location plan of Demak Laut Industrial Estate

Sarawak is a big state – almost as big as Peninsular Malaysia – but its population is only about 2 1/2 million. Its people and history are quite distinct from the other states; it enjoys considerable autonomy. On 28th January 2005, when we gave our presentation to the State Housing Consultative Committee, we were in a room with about 50 people. There were representatives from all sections of the housing industry. All the relevant State departments were there, the Fire Department, the utility bodies for electricity, water, telecommunications and gas, the Sarawak Developers’ Association, the local chapter of the Architects’ Institute and the local branch of the Institute of Engineers, even the bankers! At the head of the table
was the Housing Minister, flanked by senior officials from his Ministry and the Housing

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AT DEMAK INDUSTRIAL ESTATE, KUCHING The Site We have since designed an affordable housing scheme on an 18-acre site for the Housing Development Corporation. This site is the third phase of a housing development located about 10 km east of Kuching in a well established industrial area . The existing factories there are a magnet for workers, and there is already completed housing in the earlier phases of the development. The
(Figure 5.1)

first phase comprises 5-storey walk-up flats

for rent and sale. The second phase, just completed, consists of single storey terrace houses. With the employment opportunities, and the existing pool of tenants and owners that are considering upgrading from their
flats, there appears to be a very good

market for housing in the affordable segment, from RM 40 000 to RM 180 000. The proposed site is low-lying and
flat and will require about a metre of fill and

probably piling to approximately 2 lengths.

Planning Parameters

Development Corporation. We could not have asked for a better introduction.

In Sarawak, the planning requirements are different from those of Peninsular Malaysia. Sarawak has a lot of land and a relatively small population, and the standards pertaining to setbacks and allowable densities are more demanding. For houses, the front setback is 6m, sidesetback 4.5m, and rear setback 9m, with

honeycomb housing

Figure 5.2 Planning parameters for housing in Sarawak: road widths, setbacks and densities.

the service road in front of a house 15m wide (Figure 5.2). The maximum allowable densities, according to existing rules under the Sarawak Planning Authority, are 18 units per acre for low cost houses, 12 units per acre for ‘low-cost plus’ houses and 8 units per acre for other types of houses where the selling price is not controlled. However, the Housing Ministry is currently reviewing the present policy and guidelines.

The Design Intent

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate the possibilities opened up by using the Honeycomb concept. This aims to provide a physical setting where the
residents find it easy to get to know each

other, to interact socially, and to act collectively; in short, to build a community. It also aims to create an environmentally-friendly

neighbourhood, where every house faces a garden with big shady trees that will cool the external surroundings, where the lush landscape is not only pleasing to the eye but also provides a home for small animals and birds. The houses will not follow the conventional design, which — as indicated earlier in this book — makes houses too hot. These desirable features are to be achieved, as far as possible, without adding to the normal cost of constructing housing. Affordability is a key object, but affordable housing should improve on the easy expectations of the current ‘low-cost low-standard’ approach. The aim is to provide high quality housing, but in the price range the majority of Sarawakians can afford. It is not sufficient that houses are affordable: they should also be good value

Design Intent

5. pioneer project kuching sarawak
Figure 5.3 (left) The Quadruplex/ Sextuplex Courtyard ‘Tiles’

Figure 5.4 (right) The Quadruplex/ Sextuplex Block ‘Tiles’

Figure 5.5 Laying the ‘tiles’ on the site.

for money. The objective test of the success of any social housing scheme, for sale to the low and medium-income group, must be that the resale value of the houses appreciates with time.

We have used the basic courtDevelopment yard ‘tile’ design with 16 houses around a Components and looping cul-de-sac. The basic house types are Layout the quadruplex and sextuplex (Figure 5.3). We produce two differently sized versions of the basic tile to create a range of building price options. The central garden is large, amounting to about 3000sf or 6% of the total land area. The basic courtyard tiles are tessellated to form block tiles (Figure 5.4), which are arranged on the 18-acre. The culs-de-sac and courtyards within the site are all accessed from a looping road (Figure 5.5). A few house on the eastern border are served by the main road. The road system is simple. There are spaces set aside for a small park and a surau.

Development Components and Layout

honeycomb housing

Table 1a Product Mix

Table 1b Better Product Mix

One possible product mix is shown above (Table 1a): it includes affordable houses priced between RM 47 000 and RM 160 000. In this option no Thermal Comfort attic floor is provided. The

low-cost provision is in accordance with the present requirement of 30% of total residential units, and the pricing is that for corner terrace houses. There is an effort to avoid completely segregating the residents by affordability, on the basis that this would be socially better, without much economic disadvantage.

A better mix in terms of feasibility would result by freeing up the prices, and adding Thermal Comfort attic floors for future use (Table 1b). The social argument for this option is that the minimum standard of the lowest price units is increased so that they are more desirable, more likely to appreciate in value, and do not require the purchasers of the other units to subsidize them. People in the lowest income category would receive government assistance to rent these houses until they could afford to invest in home ownership.

Affordable Houses


5. pioneer project kuching sarawak

Figure 5.6 My First Home Type A Sextuplex

Figure 5.7 My First Home Type B Sextuplex

House Products

Housing Types

The Honeycomb concept’s quadruplex and sextuplex are the most suitable building types for affordable landed property to replace terrace houses. There are four or six units in a block. Pairs of units are accessed from different cul-de-sac courtyards; looking at the building elevation from each courtyard, the units appear like semi-detached houses and each one is a corner unit. The design allows two entrances into each house, a main formal entrance and a second informal entrance through the kitchen. The quadruplex has a 15 foot frontage, and the sextuplex, one of 30 feet, allowing parking for one car. Space for an additional car is available at the side of each house.

Types A and B are Sextuplexes. They are 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 storey versions sitting on the same sized lots. On the ground floor of Type A (Figure 5.6) are the living and dining rooms, the dry and wet kitchens, a toilet and a maid’s bedroom. Above, on
the first floor, are 3 bedrooms and another bathroom. On the attic floor there is space

for an additional bedroom and a bathroom to be added later. The total floor area including the attic space is 1622 square feet.
On the ground floor of Type B
(Figure 5.7)

are the living, and dining rooms, the dry and wet kitchens and the master bedroom with
an en-suite bathroom. On the attic floor are

two additional bedrooms and a bathroom.
The total floor area is 1010 square feet.


honeycomb housing

Expected selling price RM 80 000
(Where land price is low)


Future Room Low Headroom Storage
Bonus Loft Floor (Liveable 300 sq ft)

Future Living


Wet Kitchen Dry Kitchen/ Dining Bath 1 Living

Green Master Bedroom Bedroom 2 Bath 2 Carporch Bedroom 3
Ground Floor (300 sq ft) Upper Floor (362 sq ft)

The type D 2 1/2 storey quadruplex is the smallest home we can design (Figures

We place the living and dining rooms and a small bathroom on the ground floor.

Figure 5.8 My First Home Type D Quadruplex

Because ‘small kitchen’ is such a common complaint from UPM’s satisfaction surveys,
wet and dry kitchens are provided. Above, on the first floor are 3 bedrooms and another bathroom. The total area of the two floors is 662 square feet, just above the minimum ac-

cording to the Malaysian standards. However, in this type D option, the advantage of a

Thermal Comfort attic floor is added on — with bare finishes for future use, — bringing the built-up area to 962 square feet. Type C is just a larger version of Type D with a total floor

area of 1278 square feet.


5. pioneer project kuching sarawak

Thermal Comfort

Thermal Comfort

Three design measures are adopted to keep the houses cool. All upper storey roof eaves have 4-foot overhangs to shade the windows and walls. The roof is insulated with 4 inches of rockwool, or the equivalent. Finally we cool the high thermal mass of the concrete floors and brick walls with mechanical ventilation at night. However, this combination of design features alone will not completely achieve our design aim to keep the internal temperature below 30 degrees centigrade even on the hottest day of the year (see computer simulation study of quarterdetached house for the hottest month of the year, Figure 14.1 on page 84). Besides our Cool House technology we also need to cool the outdoor environment with the fast-growing tall shady trees that are proposed for the central courtyard. The Honeycomb arrangement of the houses also provides very useful self-shading. Some houses have to face the hot afternoon sun; our strategy is to minimize its effect by creating a cooling environment similar to the kampongs.

ing in April 2005. In particular, we highlighted the Type D unit, called it My First Home and put a price tag of RM 80 000 on it. We undertook a targeted consumer survey under the aegis of UPM and the response was found to be overwhelmingly positive: 96% liked the concept of Thermal Comfort Honeycomb Housing, 95% would recommend the houses to their friends and 80% would like to buy one if they became available.

Political Support

Consumer Survey
Consumer Survey

Using this example, and by courtesy of the Sarawak Housing Developers’ Association (SHDA), we displayed the designs at their SARBEX property exhibition in Kuch-

We had been pushing our ideas in Sarawak since January 2005. At the Housing Minister’s urging, we concentrated on applying the Honeycomb concept for ‘affordable homes’, a much better term than ‘low-cost housing’. Then in July the Ministry arranged a Seminar entitled ‘Pioneering a New Concept in Affordable Homes for Sarawak’. This gave us a rare opportunity to promote Honeycomb Housing to the right people. For Peter Davis and for me, the results have been tremendous, with the encouragement given by the Chief Minister. Actually, we only had a few minutes conversation with the CM, but he was probably briefed beforehand, and was quick to appreciate the idea. I believe that when he mentioned Honeycomb Housing in his speech, it was off the cuff.


honeycomb housing

Figure 5.9 Newspaper Splash From left, Assistant Housing Minister Dr. Soon Choon Teck, Mohd Peter Davis, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Mazlin Ghazali, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, and Housing Minister Dato Sri Abang Hj Abdul Rahman Zohari Tun Abang Hj Openg. (Photo by Je ri Mostapa, Courtesy of Borneo Post, July 19, 2005)

For us, the wall-to-wall coverage in the newspapers the next day was very important (Figure 5.9). It was not just a valuable promotion, it was an endorsement by the Chief Minister, often described as the Planner-in-Chief of the State of Sarawak. He was quoted by the Sarawak Tribune on the 19th July, 2005 as saying:

“ A house is more than just a house, but a home where individuals live and
rejuvenate, where there is space for children to grow and mature, a home that
defines how families live and interact, because it is the home environment

that...shapes a community. There are now new ways that we can work towards building community bonding in residential areas, such as the Thermal Comfort Honeycomb Housing concept. The Sarawak Planning Authority will help in ways that it can...

Political Support

Developers had been worried about the feasibility, cost, and marketability of Honeycomb Housing, but most importantly by the question — whether the plans could be accepted by the authorities. Now this potential problem of getting approvals, for Sarawak at least, was being seriously addressed.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful