Nov-Dec 2014

Table of Contents
Nov-Dec 2014
Year-end Issue | Technology versus Technique

Here is a question we struggle with, issue after issue: what type of project best represents Asia? The problem here is the underlying assumption that there is one Asia. There are in fact several: the developed and developing, the urban and rural. Add culture, history, politics and climate change into the mix and it is impossible to generalise. No single building can represent it all.

Take two articles featured in this issue: vertical greenery and the floating school. The former applies mostly to urban conditions where loss of green cover is offset by building-integrated greenery. Does it work? Does every dollar spent (plants, irrigation, maintenance) deliver hard outcomes (energy savings, urban heat island) in the short term?

With the floating school, these questions seem irrelevant, bordering on naive. Capital outlay is low. Benefits are almost always soft and long term. The problem is largely social, relating to the wellness of communities.

Neither project solely ‘represents’ Asia.

Let’s rephrase the question: when is it better to use technology; when should we rely on technique? Technology is the procurement of hardware (landscaping attached to a building façade). Technique is the craft of putting something together (a school that moves from village to village on waterways).

There are several terrific examples of technique in this issue. The café in Nha Trang, Vietnam, relies on scrap wood. The school in Malaysia relies on natural ventilation and daylighting. The office building in Jakarta, Indonesia, has a sophisticated shading strategy on its façades.

Is technology a poor second cousin to technique? Not always.

Our US correspondent, Jalel Sager, asks an important question on energy systems: how should electrical power be generated and distributed? We’ve grown accustomed to AC power produced in power plants that run on fossil fuels, distributed across long distances with step-up, step-down transformers. This configuration results in massive efficiency losses. Can we afford to keep doing this? In the Main Feature, Jalel breaks this down to the question of AC versus DC—why we must rethink the mix. In his interview with Daniel Kammen, a leading global energy expert, we hear more on what the future holds.

It seems there is a place for both technique and technology. It takes a thinking person to know what matters most, and where.

As with the last year-ender, we feature several country reports: Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. A country report, if you are seeing it for the first time, is a snapshot of recent developments with a focus on Green. This could be projects or policies, events or initiatives.





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