Focus on local materials and local building techniques

One day in 2013, I had a chance to attend a lecture of an English architect in my previous University of Architecture in Ho Chi Minh city. I finished the university and was working for a Construction company then. During his talk, he shared a lot of great architectural philosophies about hospitality projects and one of the best things I still remember until these days is about his emphasis on local building materials and local building techniques. And his talk had totally changed my life and my thinking about what I am doing in my design work. Being a good designer is not enough. The mission of modern architects and designers must be good designers with deep sense of humility and responsibility for our community around us, climate change and a better planet for our next generations in future.

Besides absorbing new building techniques around the world, as modern designers and architects, we should take preservation, study and development on building techniques of our ancients and the native architectural identity as a mission.

Here is Nam Dam Homestay and Community House / 1+1>2 Architects in Vietnam.

“The Swallow Community House and Homestay: The iconic building of the village, showing innovation spirit while keeping local identity. This two-floor house with functions as the space for meetings, local & tourist activities with a small museum and 5 bedrooms. Verandas, voids and beveled folding roof resembling the Swallows’ wing – the bird believed to bring luck – make the inner space full of natural light.

Construction methods: Integrating between traditional an modern construction techniques, maximizing local materials (rammed earth wall and timber structure);
- The foundation is constructed from local natural stone.
- The 1st floor: The 80cm thick earth wall is rammed directly on the stone foundation. It plays an important role in preventing erosion, resisting the risk of scrubbing and also keeping the indoor space warm in winter and cool in summer. Inside the building, the wall surface is coated by a mixture of earth and additives in order to enhance the strength, prevent cracking and keep the surfaces clean.”

Nam Dam Homestay and Community House / 1+1>2 Architects









The house within a vegetable garden.

The house within a vegetable garden.

Baan Rai I Arun resort is an extremely interesting model of farm-homestay. It is a combination of unique architecture, vegetable gardens, fresh nature and the homey feeling of a home. The name itself reveals most of the significances of this place. In Thai, “Baan” means house, “Rai” is farm, “I” is fog, “Arun” is a new dawn. This is the home where you can see the dawn and the morning dew drops on leaves in every early morning.

Reportedly, that is the idea of a young architect Viroj Chimme which was built in his hometown. The homesickness for the family and his mother and his passion for architecture made his dream gradually become reality. A “giant” garden, living spaces and nature blend in an amazing harmony where he spends the rest of his life for his family. Rooting from this idea, Baan Rai I Arun have been developed into a homestay resort. Waking up in the morning, visitors would be overwhelmed by sunshine dancing on the vegetable beds and meals are cooked with iingredients of fresh vegetables harvested from the garden. Here, chaos, stress of modern life seems to be disappearing.12189663-500865973406247-1979556518261097930-n-1457187087263




Typical Houses in Urban Area of Vietnam

Population explosion is a big problem in all Asian countries which especially have a tropical climate. However they have been still lacking of the knowledge of urban architecture which suits their hot and humid tropical climate. There are only about 2.5% of city dwellers who really care about their living space and green space. 90% of children from 2 months to 13 years old are suffered from respiratory illness and infectious diseases in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City loses 50% of green space in 11 years. This story illustrates the rapid rate of urbanization in Asia, the importance of green space as a health issue, and the difficulties of balancing urban development and human health.

Under the pressure of urbanization, population development and the waves of the modernization are taking place in Vietnam in general and Ho Chi Minh city in particular. Those results are a great impact on the architecture and life style of the people. There are many type of residential architecture were born in accordance with the current situation. However, some traditional house and some type of housing in subsidy period still remain till now to support the using of habitants. In Ho Chi Minh city, they can be classified into some styles base on the difference of historical periods, culture period and economy. From that, it can be seen the transformation of building methods effect by economy changing and fluctuation history. In addition, finding the advantage and disadvantage of housing situation in Ho Chi Minh is the condition to understand and bring out the right solutions.

  1. Tube house: It can be call with other names of shop house or town house. In the integrated field of architecture and urbanism, there are several confusing term relating to similar dwelling forms. The comparison between three of them should be: tube house: mainly indicate the particular physical tube form of the house Shop house: mainly indicates the dominant commercial function of the house. Street house: mainly indicates the interrelation between the house and its environment (the street). So the house can be called different ways. However this kind of house has the character of narrow width, large length and it must be much longer than the width; the height with two floors or more. First floor use as a commercial place and the rest of space for living. This type of housing can be considered as the transition from the traditional shop house to mordent house with the changing of material, wooden structure. Lack of the management, this house is build without any standard with different heights, floors and forms; suitable offset and material combine with the different advertisement panels. All these things create a complicated façade and reducing the quality of housing and living environment.


2. Independent house with garden (or it can be known as: urban housing for exclusive residential type) is a single house a private garden, from one to five floors, entirely independent of the surrounding. This kind of house is usually built in large grounds depending on the household; most kinds of this house are built in a new planning area. With the good condition of site size, it has many advantages for the owner to build a good house. However, beside the good solution of some house, lack of knowledge for an adaptive climate design strategies, some houses are also staying in bad situation with low living quality.


3. Row tube house (it can be called row shop house or row street house) is a type of adjacent houses, built in the side of the roads, in commercial areas and services in accordance with the approved plans. Beside the living function, it also can be use as shops, office services, hostels, hotels, small manufacturing facilities, etc…


4. Row villa house with garden: is a type of adjacent house with front yard and back yard. It belongs to the area of the house which fixing size area or depend on each planning zone.


5. Apartment: Since the state law of 1990, the Khu Tap The is called with a new name: the apartment. Condominium closed sub-zones, with each cluster associated with a combination of public works and services, schools, hospitals.


Currently, when most of cities have not been renovated and unplanned, spontaneous construction with many model leads to a complicated urban, poor quality. In addition the errors in design lead to the low using efficiency and high cost of much energy. Besides, so far, many areas have planned with new indicators which create a healthier and more quality with energy saving, advantaged microclimate and the improvements of surrounding environment such as green space and open space. Our mission is to point out a general comparison especially the organization of residential area layout among a number of traditional residential areas as well as new area to find out the advantages and benefits of new and old design. It also points out the negative and unsuitable as a prerequisite for the study of the more profitable strategies which used our tropical
climate for a good quality of life, comforts and maximum energy savings.

An inspiration story about India`s Menstruation Man

Yes!!! Why not?! If your work will create new jobs for the local community, attract new business, reduce product costs, especially, create a comfortable living environment for people.

“Money will come when you do something that impacts a lot of people. If you chase only money, you will be really unhappy.
Building something that can impact and change people’s lives across the world will always keep you motivated.
Don’t take yourself too seriously and you will not hesitate to take bold risks in life. Have fun along the way.” – Uber’s CTO Thuan Pham

“In a world where millions of women can’t afford safe menstrual hygiene, one man goes on a quest to make the perfect sanitary pad.
His neighbours called him a pervert and his wife left him, but he never gave up. He is India’s Menstruation Man.” – Al Jazeera English


Architecture & food/agriculture


When I think about architecture/interior architecture, I think about landscape. And when I think about landscape, I think about agriculture or food in a plain word.

As said in an online article called Architecture And Food :”Urban Agriculture is a field steadily gaining attention for its commercial and social opportunities. We believe it will be a major influence on the development of architecture and a powerful tool in urban food security, community development and climate change adaptation.”


Now in Vietnam, the number of agricultural land has been increasingly shrinking for urban development, therefore, city planners and architects have played an important role in the effort of bringing greenery and urban gardens back to urban landscape. It`s called the power of architecture to create social infrastructure in resilient city.


Factors of Green Building

Green building includes every part of construction, not just  the house itself but everything around it, and how the house and its users relate to the community around them. It is quite complicated in reality of work. However, for a basic standard, a green building should archive three goals:

  1. Energy efficiency: a well-designed and green-built home consumes as little energy as possible and uses renewable sources of energy whenever possible. The lower energy would be used, the more money would be saved for the owners. It also helps to broader social benefits, reduce air pollution, and global climate change.
  2. Conservation of natural resource: It is about the awareness of the eco-friendliness of using building materials and the process of building and operating of the building during its life cycle. It is about the effective building strategies that conserve natural resources. For example: Using more durable products to reduce waste, recycle, reuse natural resource.
  3. Indoor air quality: It s about the heating – cooling – lighting systems directly or indirectly cause some physical – mental – psychological affects on the buildings occupants.

How to Create a Green Building Village

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This article had given me a really good idea about the model for residential area that I would like to follow and build in my own business forward. I mean, It`s not just about the effort in studying and working on natural building materials and finding solutions for affordable housing and building in Vietnam, but also about a concept model for a residential area including other combination such as urban farms, urban gardens, and the building materials, the building techniques we use to build it, and the building process we will go through.. And how all the things can contribute to create a healthier life style and a better planet for our next generations.


** The master plan above is one of my concept designs for Page Hall Project  – Page Hall Community Garden in Sheffield, England.

Rules of thumb

Throughout history, people have constructed buildings with an intuitive responsiveness towards the environment and the climate in which they live, ensuring their own comfort while respecting limited resources and working with, not against, the forces of nature. By returning to an understanding of the basic principles involved in the ways that buildings respond to their surroundings, we can significantly reduce energy needs. Guidance on how to design buildings that need little or no energy for heating, lighting and cooling is the specific focus of this book.

We use energy to heat, light and cool our buildings. Much of the energy we use is derived from fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas), which are finite global resources. They will eventually run out. Before we seek to replace this fossil-fuel-derived energy with renewable or alternative energy sources (sun, wind, water or plant-based), we should first aim to ensure that our buildings use as little energy as possible, irrespective of where that energy comes from. Any energy source will result, from its production, supply and use, in negative impacts on the planet.

Aside from fossil fuels being a finite resource, there is a second reason to reduce the amount of energy used in our buildings. The way in which we convert fossil fuels into the energy we use for heat, light and power results in the generation of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the greenhouse gases. A link has therefore been made between buildings, global warning and climate change. In fact, buildings are responsible for nearly half of all the CO2 emissions we generate.

Certainly energy is used in the construction of buildings – for example, from the mechanical excavation of clay to its firing and then the transportation of the resulting brick to the construction site – and this is a serious issue for designers to tackle. But by far the most energy is used by buildings during their lifetime. All of us who commission, design, operate and inhabit buildings therefore have a significant role, and a responsibility, in reducing the energy used in the operation of our buildings.


Hemp Building Costs

Hemp Building Cost

In construction, one of the most important factors that should be concerned is the cost of building, and the cost of operation of the building. And the math that interior designers and architects have been facing these days is not only about a well-designed, green-built project, but also affordable building cost. Therefore, the journey of finding solutions for affordable housing and building in Vietnam has oriented myself  toward finding the answer in natural building materials. The cost was mentioned above is not only for construction but also for maintenance and the operation cost during its life cycle.

People always suppose green/sustainable building cost much more than conventional buildings. According to the book named Green Building Design and Construction with reality check, they claimed that it is a very common misconception that continues to linger on even though it has been debunked many times over. Although on a price per square foot basis, building green may incur marginally greater upfront costs, in the long run a green home is more affordable and cost effective because the operational costs are lower when compared with conventional buildings. It is surprising therefore that some developers still believe that building with green materials or renovating to green specifications is cost-prohibitive. In addition to this, there are various strategies and approaches that can be employed to achieve inexpensive green building. These include reducing waste, optimal value engineering, right-sizing the structure to using solar panels, low-e windows, and energy-saving appliances, and more-all of which can help qualify the project for federal tax credits. Moreover, when green thinking becomes an integral part of the initial building plans, it is easier to design and incorporate green elements into the project.



HempCrete Strongest & Greenest Building material in Nature

Hemp Can Save the World

Hemp has always been a cash crop. Fuel may be the most important product you can get from hemp for our growing energy needs, but there are literally thousands of different products you can make from hemp. From clothing, to makeup, to biodegradable plastics, it’s pretty much a miracle plant. It has 4x the yield of tobacco, is incredibly resilient to changes in environment and it grows very quickly. I would argue that hemp would be a staple in any sustainable society. (It’s really a shame that it’s illegal in the US.)—>Not sure!