ARTICLE Anya Kussler
PHOTOGRAPHY Vo Trong Nghia Architects
In a world where the population is growing at a rapid rate of around 80 million per year, creating smart, sustainable living spaces is of the essence, especially in our increasingly crammed and polluted urban environments. This attractive Vietnamese tube house, aptly named Stacking Green, is a prime example of how one can make the most of a tiny section in a big way, whilst drawing from nature’s bounty in order to create a dwelling that’s eco-friendly and highly economical, too.
Designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects for a young couple and their mother, this prototypical, private home was built in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, five years ago. Whilst the section is a mere four metres wide and twenty metres deep, what’s lacking in grounds, was well made up for by ‘stacking’. Set over four levels, the home features a surprisingly generous floor area of 215 square metres, allowing ample space for a garage and courtyard, open-plan living area and kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, as well as a rooftop garden.
Another key feature of this home is its ecological aspect, which was inspired by the Saigonese penchant for adorning private homes with an abundance of plants, as well as the desire to combat the declining greenery in cities like Cho Chi Minh City due to the furious urban sprawl and commercialism.
Architect Nguyen Thi Kim Hoan explains: “There is an interesting custom among the people in Ho Chi Minh City – they love to enrich their life with plants and flowers around the streets, and even in the modernised city, people unconsciously wish to substitute the rampant tropical forest.” In a quest to architecturise this custom, both the front and back façades of the Stacking Green home are entirely made up of layers of horizontal, louver-like concrete planters cantilevered from two sidewalls and featuring a plethora of 25 species of plants. The distance between the planters and their height has been adjusted according to the height of the plants, varying from 25 cm to 40 cm.
Being highly visible from the street, these lush green displays not only contributes to the aesthetic appeal of the property and the biodiversity of the urban surrounds, but they also inspire others to install more greenery into their buildings.
In a practical sense, both the green façade and the roof top garden protect Stacking Green’s inhabitants from direct sunlight, street noise and pollution. The façade also provides a semi-open screen that helps maintain privacy and provides security in a natural and subtle, non-intrusive manner, which is essential in a city where people live so close to one another.
What’s more, fresh air is allowed circulate freely throughout the house thanks to its porous façades and two skylights, designed to maximise the wind that enters the building. The open-plan room design and absence of unnecessary partitions also contribute to optimum airflow, which Nguyen Thi Kim Hoan says has been instrumental in providing a comfortable living environment, as well as reducing the energy consumption: “Despite our harsh tropical climate, there’s hardly any need to use the air conditioning and the owners’ average electricity charges come to just 25USD (NZD34) per month.”
Speaking of savings, Stacking Green has also factored in an eco-friendly water supply and keeping time spent tending to the in-house garden to a minimum: all the plants are watered with rainwater that’s collected in a tank and then pumped into the planters through automatic irrigation pipes.
Last but not least, this multi-level abode is also a cost saver as far as building expenses go. Due to the open-plan design, construction management and choice of materials, it only cost around 480 USD (NZD655) per square metre to build.
Whilst located in Asia, the Stacking Green concept inspires exciting creative solutions for home builds and renovations in any country, city or culture around the world, especially where lack of space and dwindling green spaces are an issue. - R