Saturday, February 26, 2011


In the first place, I am not an architect and not trained in anyway in architecture. I have never attended any formal courses in architecture be it at colleges or universities. But I am interested in architecture in terms of appreciating its design and function.
There is one strong point that I have in trying to appreciate and understand ( a bit) about architecture. I am trained in the science and the logics and principles of science. Throughout my life I was brought up in a Malay kampong or village environment where most if not all the houses built are the traditional Malay houses with strong input of Minangkabau influence.
Despite of what is being said and heaps of praises thrown out towards the traditional design of the Minangkabau and Malacca houses, I got a very uneasy feeling that the writers of these articles have never really stayed that long in the traditional houses. In terms of architectural design the traditional houses may be rich in culture or beautiful in its presentation but in terms of its functionality and comfort it shows a mediocre performance.
Any one staying in such houses should know how poor the ventilation of the houses and how hot the interior environment of such houses. Most of these houses are often located within the proximity of trees or even forests resulting in such a high humidity content of the air around the area. Not only it is hot but humid which are indeed very uncomfortable to the house dwellers.
The situation was not bad when the original roofs are made of thatched roofs which are cooler compared to the use of zinc layers which makes the house a wonderful oven.
The argument that there is sufficient ventilation to cool the indoor environment is not good enough/ Most of the writers would easily try to explain in terms of “theory” how hot air will rise from the floor to the roof by thermal convection. What they forgot to explain is that the hot air that rises to the ceiling or roofs are not easily dissipated to the external environment. This may be attributed to their poor understanding of the physics of ventilation in their courses or in the universities
Very few or little scientific studies are really carried out to understand the movement of heat or formation of heat sinks in such houses .It doesn’t take much to use tracers or heat sensors to study the heat, humidity and data could easily be analysed by computers
It is time that the local architecture schools carry out proper scientific studies and modellings to understand the ventilation and heat circulations of the traditional houses that can contribute to better designs of such houses. Gone are the days when architecture is likened more to just designing without understanding the physic principles behind it.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Again we are awakened by the news of the death of workers working in the man hole.
SUBANG JAYA: A Bangladeshi kitchen hand and a Nepalese security guard died while two other foreigners were hospitalised after inhaling dangerous fumes in a manhole behind the Subang Parade shopping complex. ( The Star 11 Feb 2011)
The most likely cause of the death is probably difficulty in breathing due to low oxygen content and the high concentration of methane gas in the man hole.
It is not surprising that there is a connection between the low oxygen gas and the production of methane. Methane as an anaerobic gas are only produced by the very strict and obligate anaerobes such as the methanogen bacteria. The very low dissolved oxygen promotes the anaerobic digestion process to produce methane bacteria and methane gas.
Despite what is being said above even though the conditions are anaerobic, methane would still not be produced if there is no decaying or rotting organic matter. There is the need for water, as well as the organic substrate to produce the methane.
It is easy to imagine where the organic matter comes from or even the source of water.
The often high temperature in the manholes and conduits help in the acceleration of the organic decay resulting in the higher production rate of methane.
Methane as a gas need the escape route. This is one reason why septic tanks, landfills are often equipped with these pipes to prevent the buildup of methane gas in enclosed spaces. Adding insult to injury most of these manholes are often not serviced and air tight which prevent the methane gas from escaping
It is easy to detect ammonia or hydrogen sulphide due to their foul odour, but in the case of carbon dioxide and methane you cannot smell it, and it might be too late to realize that they are there…
It is essential that most involved in the design and servicing of these sewers, man holes to be educated, aware and properly trained and equipped in the face of these silent killers….

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