Research of the Features of Traditional Malay House Design to Integrate Climate Issue and Human Activities

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To ensure future generations can enjoy a satisfactory life, a sustainable approach towards human comfort is now vital. The word ‘sustainable’ successfully increase the awareness of architects, become an fundamental in the architectural discourse (Bennetts, H, n. d. ). In this paper, whether traditional architecture are more sustainable will be figure out. Sustainability in architecture means conserving constructions for future, in terms of conserving on energy resources. Buildings should built by integrating environmental, human activities and climatic parameters into design to enhance space qualities to achieve higher comfortability. In this paper, will mainly focus on ways of traditional Malay house is designed to integrate climate issue and human activities. Traditional Malay house design is the root of Malaysia identity in architecture because it reflects the way of Malays generations adapt their environment with their needs and culture (Kamal K. S. , 2004). Concludes that according to some factors it is possible to address Malay traditional architecture is more sustainable.

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Climate Of Malaysia

To have greater acknowledgement about how Malay house is integrating lifestyle with nature, climate of Malaysia should be figure out. Firstly, Malaysia is located in west of Maritime Continent (Southeast Asian region). Also, Malaysia characteristically experiences heavy rainfall (above 2,500 mm per annum), temperatures are between 29-32’C; humidity are 85%. Due to the sufficiency of water vapour in the air, expedite growth of mould and algae, rusting. (Lim JY. , n. d. )Malaysia is considered as hot and humid climate tropical country, situated at the equatorial region. (Centre of Global Education, 2018)Malaysia experience monsoon season every year, it is divided into 2 zones which is as follow (Climate to Travel, n. d. ):i. The south-west Malaysia – May to September (rainfall 2500mm per annum)ii. The north-east Malaysia – November to March (rainfall 5080mm per annum)Malaysia’s sky perennial cover with heavy cloud and high water-vapour content in the air, the direct solar radiation is filtered. However, Malaysia is located near equatorial, solar radiation is still strong and cause painful sky glare.

Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort means that a person wearing normal amount of clothing feels neither too cold nor too warm. It is a range of climatic conditions considered comfortable and acceptable inside building, without any sensation of thermal (heat or cold) discomfort. Measurable factors that influence body’s heat balance (thermal comfort) are ENVIRONMENTAL and PERSONAL ACTIVITIES. Environment is affected by air temperature, humidity and air velocity while personal activities can be affect by activity and clothing level. Human habitation, site influence (architectural context) and building design can be changed to achieve a better thermal comfort. (Valitherm, A. , n. d. )Culturally, traditional Malay house is built in passive design, which 100% focus on natural air ventilation. Indigenous ethnic Malay has a broad knowledge about how to adapt with nature, increase the quality of lifestyle. They observed their environment, solve the problems that might causes risks to them, for e. g. raise the level of building to prevent flood, use atap leaves as main roof material because it can easilu procured in the surrounding area. Architects nowadays rely on mechanical cooling system such as air condition as main factors to provide thermal comfort (Hassan, 2010). To achieve thermal comfort in a natural way, passive design should be achieved. The definition of passive design is: building design integrates nature resources (wind, sun path) as main factors of thermal comfort instead of mechanical cooling system (Hassan, 2010). Culturally, human don’t have much resource to use mechanical ventilation method such as air conditioner, Indigenous ethnic Malay achieve thermal comfort adapting by natural in CROSS VENTILATION and STACK VENTILATION.

Cross Ventilation

Cross ventilation allow cool exterior air flow into building through an inlet such as window, louver; Outlet allow the warm air from the interior being float out through higher opening such as window or roof. (Moffitt Corporation, 2017). Malay traditional house achieve cross ventilation by an 100% opening window and door design.

Stack Ventilation

Stack ventilation allow warm air inside the building rises and exits through openings such as window or door. To work best on stack ventilation is lower the intakes of air and higher the height of building. (Hassan, 2010). The windows of Malay traditional house build at body level, fully open able windows and doors and high rooftop to achieve stack ventilation. Figure 3: Stack Ventilation drawn by author, 2018 To achieve thermal comfort in the modern Malaysian houses, high temperatures, solar radiation, humidity and glare must be controlled (Hassan, 2010). Traditional Malay house use ventilation and solar radiation control devices to achieve thermal comfort for occupants. These are the most effective ways to achieve thermal comfort in a hot and humid climate like Malaysia. (Valitherm, A. , n. d. )

Traditional Malay House

In the traditional vernacular houses all over the world, traditional Malay house is not professionally designed but has evolved as time goes by using readily available local materials, which suitable for Malaysia climate and environment conditions. To achieve climatic comfort for modern house in Malaysia, referring to Nasir (1985) should attain the following points:i. Use waterproof material to protect against rainii. Allow sufficient ventilation to cool the spaceiii. Use low thermal capacity building materials to avoid heat transmitted into the houseiv. Avoid strong glare from opening and surrounding (reflection)v. Allow sufficient natural vegetation in the surroundings to avoid glare reflection in order to achieve a cooler environment.

Design Componentorientation

Due to religious reasons, traditional Malay house faces to Mecca, which is on east-west direction. Meanwhile, minimum area exposed to solar radiation is east-west orientation because Sun rises at east and sets at west, the Sun strike in with the softest sunlight. Indirectly lessen the heat gain by Malay traditional house achieve a better thermal comfort for interior spaces.

Building Materials

Lightweight construction wood is the main material of traditional Malay house, but main structure like posts, beam is use hardwood like cengal, the roof of is covered with water-proof atap leaves. Reasons of lightweight material is chosen because it will hold a little heat during day and cools down at night. Thermal comfort achieved in a nature and sustainability way.


Culturally, the indigenous Malay builds a distinctive design, Traditional Malay house is primarily a timber structure. Traditional Malay house raise the house built on to adapt with natural facture such as ground dampness, floods. Also, they used a raised floor system to secure the house from the attacks of wild animals. Built on stilts, allow cross ventilation, capturing wind of higher velocity at a higher level, and provide a cool air flow into interior spaces, achieving better thermal comfort.Culturally, a kampong is comprises several Malay houses and their compounds. As kampong have plenty of spaces, this allowed indigenous Malay to choose where to build their dwellings, therefore no geometric order can be found in the layout of kampong, they did not aligned with the front and back of the houses, but built their houses randomly to ensure high wind velocity in the path, so it won’t be reduced and thermal comfort can be achieved. Due to the lackness of physical barriers allow kampong have high passage of wind and achieved thermal comfort. This shows how knowledgeable indigenous Malays are in adapting with the environment.

Ventilation Of Roof Space

Traditional Malay house built 2 levels of roofs, which allowed stack ventilation to be achieved easily. The roofs spaces in the traditional Malay houses can achieve thermal comfort by the provision of panels in the roof construction and ventilation joints. Also, the indigenous Malay uses lightweight and thermal insulator to ensure the interior spaces in a thermal comfort condition.


Indigenous Malays plant tall and narrow trees like coconut trees to provide good shade by the leaves and narrow trunks won’t blobk the passage of winds. Figure 9: Narrow trunk plantation allow wind flow, drawn by author, 2018 PLANS Traditional Malay house is designed in an elongated open plans which allow cross ventilation and air can easily pass through. Also, absence of physica barriers such as partitions males traditional Malay house achieves better cross ventilation, this provides a cool interior space.

Window Position

Fully open-able doors and windows can be found in traditional Malay house design it is to achieve cross ventilation. The body level is the most vital consideration for ventilation to achieve thermal comfort.

Roof Overhang

Traditional Malay house are designed with large overhangs, to reduce exposure of sunlight. Traditional Malay house roof overhang is use to protect against rain. Also, it gives shades to so windows and doors can be open all the time to achieve ventilation.

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