How to cool down your house in scorching Saigon without aircon?

Certain architecture can help cool down your house in Ho Chi Minh City’s scorching weather without, or less, turning on power-consuming air-conditioners

Apartments at Lo Gom Condominium are designed with many air holes

According to French architect Charles Gallavardin, natural ventilation and sun protection are among the major features of bioclimatic architecture, a type of architecture which can help to significantly reduce the need for air-conditioners.

This architect’s designs are based on studying the effects of climatic conditions on people, such as orienting homes in the direction of the main wind, blocking sun to prevent heat, and manipulating moisture.

“The more people use air-conditioning, the more the climate becomes hot and the more they need air-conditioning,” Gallavardin told Tuoi Tre News.

One of his outstanding works, featured on CNN earlier this year, is the Lo Gom Condominium in District 6, a typical model in the "war" to reduce air-conditioning consumption in Ho Chi Minh City.

Lo Gom Condominium in District 6. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi tre News
Lo Gom Condominium in District 6. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi tre News

What’s special?

The Lo Gom Condominium, located along Tan Hoa canal, is a social housing development project designed by Charles Gallavardin together with French NGO Villes en Trasition's team for people who live on the bank of the polluted waterway.

The first impression of most visitors to the condominium is that the place is full of sun and wind.

The building was put into use in 2005 and consists of 72 apartments spread between three U-shaped blocks, each with three to four stories high feature hallmarks of bioclimatic architectural, such as wide corridors and large roofs.

According to Gallavardin, the big roof and corridors help limit direct sunlight on the apartments’ main wall, one of the main reasons that increase a house’s temperature.

The apartments also feature big doors with air holes, balconies, and big windows, enabling the house to receive natural light and allowing air to flow through the unit.

That air flow creates a natural air-conditioning that helps reduce the amount of energy used for lightning and cooling.

The big roof on top is also designed as double roof, also contributing to the air to flow.

Lo Gom Condominium designed with natural ventilation. Photo: T3 Architecture Asia

“My house’s always cool, and full of wind and sunlight”, Quynh, a resident who has lived at the A1 block for more than ten years shared with Tuoi Tre News.

Meanwhile, the family of Pham Kim Nga, 36, who has been living in the facility for a few months, said her family doesn’t need to use a fan at night and doesn’t consume much electricity for lightning.

Still, many households currently use air-conditioners in their apartments, as they have to accommodate growing families by adding rooms and mezzanine areas.

As a result, those new rooms need air-conditioners.

“Ending air-conditioner use is a very long journey, however, with houses designed with natural ventilation, you may only have to turn the air-conditioner on in the afternoon, and only to 24 or 25 degree Celsius instead of 18”, Gallavardin explained.

Air-conditioner are seen at Lo Gom Condominium. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi Tre News

New but old

Architect Gallavardin said bioclimatic architecture has been used by Vietnamese people for a long time, especially in the country side and in Hoi An, with layered tile roofs, corridors, and front and back yards that allow air to flow through the house.

It can also be found in Saigon houses from the 1970s.

Currently, in cities, due to high population density and expensive land, people tend to build houses with connected backs in get maximum use of their land.

This inadvertently interrupts the flow of air, making the home hot, according to Gallavardin.

French architect Charles Gallavardin. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi Tre News
French architect Charles Gallavardin. Photo: Dong Nguyen/ Tuoi Tre News

According to him, it’s more important to make a proper house than a big uncomfortable one.

For example, people can use a small volume of their land and turn it into a small backyard to allow for the flow of air.

“That’s why it’s very important in a tropical climate like Saigon to have balcony or outdoor corridor.  It’s also the best protection from sun when you have a high-rise building”, he said.

Charles Gallavardin said that he is very confused seeing many high-rise buildings in Ho Chi Minh City with all glass faces, something he considers "crazy" in the tropical climate here.

Meanwhile, architect Nguyen Ngoc Dung from theHo Chi Minh City Architects Association agreed that bioclimatic architecture is not something new to Saigon, it’s only a new trend in current time.

"Prior to 1975, in Thanh Da area in Binh Thanh District, people also made similar apartments," he pointed out. "The highest is 5 floors and tehy also have corridors surrounding houses.” 

However, the big reason why it is difficult to apply this design in Ho Chi Minh City is that land is too expensive.

"Everyone wants to have a corridor around their houses, but the land is too expensive, so people often have to save their land," Dung explained.

Moreover, in the past, people build their house with walls of 200cm-300cm in thickness to prevent heat, but now, walls are often 100cm-thick because an inch of soil is an inch of gold, that also make the house humid and hot, he added.

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