Sustainable Building, and the use of Homegrown Organic Materials

The Bamboo Playhouse in the Perdana Botanical Gardens. Image courtesy Eleena Jamil


The concept of sustainable building covers a complete range of strategies, from design to construction, sourcing and operations. What does sustainable building truly entail? ELEENA JAMIL, the Malaysian architect who designed and built The Bamboo Playhouse in Kuala Lumpur’s Perdana Botanical Gardens, tells us about using homegrown sustainable materials and her holistic approach to sustainable building.

Despite being faced with the threat of rapidly depleting resources, urban centres continue to be inundated with commercial development and the impact on human health and the environment is cause for increasing alarm.

In the United States alone the Western North Carolina Green Building Council reports that buildings account for about 40% of energy use, 70% or electricity consumption and 40% of carbon dioxide emissions. In view of this the building industries of the world have tried to find ways to build more responsibly, enhancing conditions in terms of budget, the environment and social impact. But above and beyond construction, sustainable building also involves ensuring resource-efficiency throughout a building’s life-cycle: and looks at the entire process from planning to design, construction, to operations, maintenance, renovation, and down to demolition.

Closer to home, one architect is making strides in sustainable building and sourcing for homegrown organic building materials. Eleena Jamil Architects concentrates on creating enduring architecture through tactile spatial solutions, and strong references to context and culture. As with most architects, Eleena is concerned about building responsibly and sustainably. We pay Eleena a visit at her office where she tells us about sustainability in each stage of the building process and tells us about her discoveries in homegrown organic materials and building with bamboo. Click below to listen to Part 1 of the conversation.



Bamboo has been used as a means of scaffolding for many decades in Asia. Image source:


In Part 2 of the conversation, Eleena breaks down further the complexities of building with bamboo and the lack of formal standards in sourcing and treating the bamboo, and how she discovered solutions. She also delves into her work with other homegrown materials, what’s inspiring her at the moment and discusses some of the challenges in the building industries today. Click below to listen.



Bamboo Playhouse process laid out at an exhibit for KLAF 2017. Photo: Maya Tan


Eleena Jamil Architects’ Bamboo Playhouse was the focus of an exhibit at the recent Kuala Lumpur Architecture Festival 2017. Below, (top) the exhibits showcase the traditional art of tanggam, involving a method of binding bamboo together without the use of screws or nails, and (bottom) the architectural categorising of bamboo for building purposes. Photos by Maya Tan.



Eleena has also worked with other homegrown materials including varieties of local timber. Click below to watch a video of the construction of the Shadow Garden Pavilion, designed by Eleena Jamil Architects for Shalini Ganendra Fine Arts’ Pavilion Now project in 2016.




This story was originally published under the now-defunct Think City Channel.

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