Kirk Talks Sustainability in Myanmar

05 June 2017

Recently, Richard Kirk was invited by Austrade to be one of the keynote speakers at the Green Building & Water Technologies Seminar in Yangon, Myanmar.

Kirk addressed the seminar by discussing the idea that our 19th century built heritage, where buildings were designed and built without reliance on energy sources, artificial lighting and mechanical cooling, provides an excellent foundation for contemporary ideas on sustainable design for architecture in the tropics. Kirk highlighted that our heritage structures need to be valued as not just physical objects but as important intellectual resources. As resources, they demonstrate how to build our cities using low-energy models based on passive systems that result in low impact, resilient communities. We now have the capacity to supercharge our 19th century knowledge by utilising new forms of digital analysis allowing cities and buildings to be planned para-metrically with well understood, optimised design solutions, allowing us to analyse the micro-climate that our urban environments will create.

Yangon is richly endowed with such heritage and finds itself at a critical juncture, where the colonial core of the city remains intact and an eagerness to preserve the characteristic of the city exists but there is also rapid urban development driven by a vision to modernise that continues to gain momentum. This tension calls for an amalgamation of aspects of the past with aspirations for the future and the development cycle presents unique opportunities to capitalise on the lessons of 30 years of the sustainability movement. The lessons derived from the arrival of new technologies in localised energy production and storage and mass and personal transport will redefine the way cities are born and grow. Kirk expressed the belief that we must learn from more developed cities that now find themselves recalibrating in order to reduce their reliance on high energy systems, transport models and planning to address their poor understandings of density and integration with landscape and open space.

Importantly, Kirk noted that Australia, with Myanmar and many parts of South East Asia have a shared history as colonial trading centers and these parallels can be used to encourage and allow cross-pollination of sustainable architectural solutions. Kirk went on to provide examples of the culturally appropriate and sustainable development undertaken by KIRK that exist as exemplars and cues for development strategies relevant to moving forward.

• Examples such as KIRK’s Kuala Lumpur Cultural Centre project that uses local timber for the structure.
KIRK’s Kuching apartment development that is a series of mid-rise apartment towers designed around natural ventilation principles.
• The Nanyang Technical University’s Learning Hub that aims to have 30% of the building reliant upon natural ventilation despite the challenging Singapore climate.
• And finally, Kirk discussed the University of Queensland’s Advanced Engineering Building – the most energy efficient university building in Australia and the largest mixed mode non-residential building in Australia. It also uses local Australian timbers in the structure and façade. This is an opportunity Myanmar shares with Australia to use the locally available high-quality timber in all forms of contemporary construction, including tall towers.

The talk attracted a diverse range of participants including Government officials, developers and consultants and KIRK looks forward to further engagement and future opportunities to participate in this exciting Asian Market.