Asian Architecture - Telegraph Poles House Case Study Report
Telegraph Poles House in Langkawi act as one of the significant samples of
passive design architectures at the modern time in Malaysia. Based on the
findings of Traditional Malay House, it was designed to adapt the weather in
tropical climate, which greatly suit to the climate condition of Southeast Asia.
Telegraph Poles House was built on the hills in Langkawi Island. It become
one of the case study for tropical climate countries to study the effectiveness
of how passive design to attain thermal comfort.
To achieve thermal comfort, the objectives of this study paper is to research
about how Telegraph Poles House can be achieve the thermal comfort by
several natural factors. By analyzing some passive design of the building to
understand three natural factors such as air temperature, radiant temperature
and humidity and also vernacular architecture of Telegraph Poles House.
Even though Telegraph Poles House is a modern building, it included some
similarity of design as the traditional Malay Houses. Telegraph Poles House is
extremely well designed to suit the warm and humid Malaysian climate and for
the multifunctional use of space. Some of the significant design features are
included in Telegraph poles House such as stilts design and overhang roof
On the other hand, building material is another important components to
achieve thermal comfort too. Telegraph Poles House used recycled materials,
which are reclaimed timbers and steels. It is because wood is most certainly a
finite resources in the island. The telegraph poles itself prove to be particularly
useful material of the house. The old telegraph poles were become the
structural column by putting wooden poles next to each other on raised steel
With a direct dependence on nature for its resources and embodying a
deep knowledge of ecological balances, the telegraph house is efficiently
designed to suit the local climatic requirements using various ventilation and
solar-control devices, and low-thermal-capacity building materials. Besides
being well adapted to the environment, it is flexible and varied to suit the
needs of the users.
Topic: Adaption of Passive Design and Reclaimed Materials to
Achieve Thermal Comfortin TropicalClimate in Telegraph Poles
House in Langkawi.
1. What are the elements of site context surrounding the Telegraph
Poles house and how does it affect the passive design to achieve
thermal comfort of the building.
2. What is the most significant characteristic passive design in
Telegraph Poles House Langkawi.
3. How does the building layout affect the passive design in Telegraph
Poles House Langkawi in tropical climate,
4. What are the building materials that is used in Telegraph Poles
House? Why do the architect using reclaimed timber instead of
modern concrete to whole buildings.
Chapter 2 Adaption of climate control
2.1 Malaysian climate and topography
Malaysia is located near to equator in southeast of the Asian continent,
which is one of tropical countries. The weather of Malaysia is hot and humid
throughout the whole year. The average temperature of Malaysia is around
27 °c which from 22°c to 32°c. The rain for the year, West Malaysia gets up to
2500mm and East Malaysia thrives in 5080mm.
Since Malaysia is a hot and humid weather, it provides good condition
to grow strong vegetation. There are four-fifth of area covered by rainforest.
Hence, Malaysia produces lots of good wood materials, and wood materials
become one of the main building materials in buildings constructions.
Figure 2.1.1google map with wind direction indicated.
The monsoon of Malaysia always come at beginning and end of the year.
The Northeast wind direction come at September to November. By the
coming monsoon at the end of the year, is the most frequently period that
will raining and wind the most.
Topography is always the most impact influences to the climate
because it can either absorb or block the weather and temperature and
moisture within that landscape.
The telegraph poles house is located at the hill top in Pulau Langkawi.
It is surrounded by full of forest by sea side. The sea breeze provide great
ventilation to the building. Follow by the contour of the hill to cooler the hot air
and transfer it into the telegraph poles house.
The Orientation of the telegraph poles house is face to southeast
maximize the sun path from east in the morning. Other than that, it face for
religious purpose. Telegraph poles is surround by lot of vegetation. It create a
great natural ventilation to the building. The microclimate provide cooling
system to the site also.
Figure 2.1.4 Site context
Figure 2.1.2Site plan with wind direction. Figure 2.1.3 Sectional diagram with sea breeze.
2.2 Thermal comfort requirement
There are 3 control point of the climatic factors need to be considered
also in order to achieve thermal comfort. The 3 climatic factors are sun, rain
and wind. However, we are not able to control the climatic factors as we can.
However we can control some of the thermal comfort requirement by 3
There are several environmental factors that will influences
temperature and humidity in order to achieve thermal comfort. Air temperature
is the most common factor to indicate. To achieve thermal comfort, air
temperature, humidity and radiant temperature are the critical point to control
Figure 2.1.7 Coastal
Widely open space, salty
sea breeze flew inside,
create moisture to the
Figure 2.1.6 Huge Mountain RangeFigure 2.1.5 Tropical Rainforest
Rainforest consists warm
moisture atmosphere and
bring cooling effect to the
most of the area in
Closer to the sun, absorb
most of the solar radiation.
consists extreme weather
because it acts as a
barrier to wind direction
and air movement.
2.3 Vernacular Architecture – Traditional Malay House
How to control and achieve thermal comfort by passive design? By
analysis the structure of traditional Malay Houses, there are some special
design elements for itself to adapt the extreme weather of Malaysia.
The traditional Malay House can divide into 3 layers of zoning which
are top zone, middle zone and bottom zone. Three zones provide 3 different
ways of methods to get good ventilation to Malay house.
Top zone which is roof structure provide big roof space to allow air flow
in or out from the roof zone. Attap roofing provide good insulation against heat
Middle zone which also cross ventilation at body level is the living
space for people to have activities. It provide good sun shading effectively
because of the roof eaves structure. Open floor plan to allow cross ventilation.
Openings are provide to control the air flow and ventilation at body level.
The bottom zone are raised up by the stilts design to catches winds of
higher velocity. The building materials are low thermal capacity is to keep the
Figure 2.3.1 Traditional Malay House Zoning Diagram
Traditional Malay house are usually designed by the user’s themselves
according to their needs. By designing to achieve thermal comfort, they also
embedded the element of their own cultural aspect and heritage element.
There are 3 three significant design features in traditional Malay house which
are stilt design, huge openings and overhang roof.
On the other side, the construction of Tranditional house are using
passive design matter also. The structural joints are pre-cut hole and grooves,
effectively make it as a prefabricated house.
Figure 2.3.2 Traditional Malay House Significant Features.
Chapter 3 Passive Design Features of Telegraph
3.1 Stilt Design
Every Traditional Malay House has almost the same stilt design.
The ground floor is lift up by raising on stilts to avoid the flood at that
early age. Other than that, it also serve as a natural ventilation for the
bottom. Telegraph Poles House is designed as same features as
traditional Malay house too. On the first floor, there are little of active
design such as fan and no air conditioning because the open floor plan
has facilities natural ventilation. On the other hand, the bottom also
serve as a space for storage usage.
The open ground floor plan of the
Telegraph Poles House allow the cross
ventilation by minimise the wall and
partition. The living area is widely open
for public and only the kitchen are
enclosed by using sliding doors to avoid
wild animal to get inside.The telegraph
poles acts as a stilts and also structural
support column that raised up the whole
Figure 3.1.2 Living Area of Telegraph Poles
Figure 3.1.1 Sectional diagram showing stilts design and air flow.
3.2 Huge Openings
In Traditional Malay House, there are a lots of openings such as
louvered windows and doors are created surround every corner. It is not just
for decoration purpose, but also a method to control the air flow. In order to
allow more air flow passage in to the interior part, more openings are created.
Tebar Layar on the roof is also part of opening to allow air passage through
over the roof.
Figure 3.2.1 Open Floor Space of Telegraph Poles House.
Figure 3.2.1 1st Floor plan diagram showing cross ventilation.
3.3 Roof Structue
The most recognized feature that people will know is definitely the roof
of Malay House. The large overhang roof is designed follow by the traditional
malay house which is steep and wide overhang that functioned to limited the
dazzling sunlight for shading and tropical raining. Besides that, the overhang
roof is ventilated by the provision of ventilation joints and panels in its
structure. It helps to cool the whole house by allow the hot air from interior
exhaust to exterior because there is no any ceiling panels installed on top.
Figure 3.3.1 Large Overhang Roof Shading
Figure 3.3.1Sectional diagram showing ventilation and shading device.
3.4 Orientation of Building layoutand site context
Telegraph Poles was built and rotated its position according to the
direction of wind flow. Hence, good angle of position can enhance the natural
cooling system and also minimize the extreme sun path and high temperature
of solar radiation. Telegraph Poles House is surrounded by vegetation on the
hill top. It create a natural cooling system of micro-climate to the building in
terms to provide natural ventilation.
Figure 3.4.1 Site Plan diagram surrounded by vegetation on hilltop.
The layout planning
looks like the
longitude house on
stilts from ground
floor to the upper
Figure 3.4.2 First Floor
Figure 3.4.3 Ground Floor Plan
The first floor plan is
bedroom, so is only
because of privacy.
The Ground floor plan is
public area, it consists
kitchen and living area
and swimming pool.
Hence it provide a
parallel full view to the
Chapter 4 Reclaimed Materialof Telegraph Poles House
Telegraph Poles House design evolve variety of similarity passive
design with traditional Malay house even include the building material
preferences. The whole house is constructed by reclaimed wood and with a
little of concrete for slab. Malay house are tend to use line weight building
materials to construct. Wood materials is line weight materials and it provide
low thermal capacity compare with concrete and it can maintain the heat from
day until night. Wood material is the most common building materials to build
houses in Malaysia. However, good quality of wood materials is limited
resources especially in Pulau Langkawi. Hence, the architect choose to use
reclaimed wood, largely pulled from old telegraph poles that had been used in
There are four of utility poles are remained to make a structural column.
The wood material is pretty safe because of weathering enhance
treatment by nature. In order to prevent wood materials are rotted of
eaten by termite, the bottom of each telegraph poles are provide a steel
plate to lift up for a bit from the ground.
Figure 4.1.1 Utility Poles being reused as reclaimed structural column of Telegraph
Other than the structural columns are
used by reclaimed wood, the roof structure
is also constructed by wood materials. The
reclaimed wood materials were from the
old airport hotel in Penang.
The whole building construction used little of nail and nuts, WHBC architects used the
traditional way of building style as Malay house construction which just provide precut holes
and grooves to fit timber together.
Figure 4.1.1 Wood Joints with limited Nails. Figure 4.1.1 Telegraph poles as a column connected
joints as a stair case
with Steel Hanging
to top are used to
join two slabs as
openness feature of
house‘s beauties. It
also serve as a
beam structure for
the framework that
can support the roof.
Figure 4.1.1 Wooden Staircase with Steel Hanging
The concrete material is only used for the ground floor slab to show
contrast between two floors. Concrete is a cold materials so it will extreme hot
or cold according to the weathering. The reason that why WHBC architect do
not build up the whole housing to be just wood materials is because ground
slab is connected to the foundation. In order to strengthen the whole building,
and prevent timber for rotten by termitte.
Figure 4.1.1 Concrete slab for Ground Floor Slab
Figure 4.1.1 Kitchen on Ground Floor Figure 4.1.1 Kitchen on Ground Floor
To sum up, after completed analysis this case study, Telegraph Poles
House acts an fully ventilation housing. The adaption of passive design and
reclaimed material has successfully implement to the building. The openings
has fully implement to the climatic concern and contextual response. In
addition, the openings are also organized to suit the parellel seaviews.The
building layout differenciate the privacy between two floor slabs.No matter it is
floor slab or roof structure, it fully allow the cross ventilation and air flow to
come inside. For today, Telegraph Poles House has done a great outcome
with thermal comfort and also fulfill the needs of clients and also respond to
the site context. The elements and passive design features should be
considered to include in the modern architecture today.