In the 1970’s they thought of him as a crazy hippie architect from London. Based in Malaysia, Eco-Architect Ken Yeang of Hamzah & Yeang has worked to integrate architecture and ecology for more than 50 years. One of the early pioneers of ecological design and planning, Ken has approached the design of buildings and communities through the lens of ecosystem services. This he says, is still a work in progress. He received a Phd in ecological design and planning from Cambridge University and later published Designing With Nature (McGraw-Hill, 1995), one of many publications that have influence a generation of designers. The Guardian has even named him one of the 50 people who could save the planet.
Ken, you have spent most of your career trying to reconcile or integrate the built environment with the natural environment - to create works of living architecture. Generally speaking, where has the most progress has been made over the past 30 years?
KY The most progress I think is firstly in the various green accreditation systems which have provided a common basis for evaluating green buildings. However, architects today have taken these accreditation system as far as they can, and this is excellent progress. These systems have also proselytised green design to a wider public audience. This the other key success of the accreditation systems.
The second progress is in eco-engineering. Back in the early 90’s we had great difficulty getting engineers to help us with green design (especially with energy, water and sewerage systems). But today most if not all M&E Engineers claim to do eco-engineering systems. This is again wonderful progress.
The next generation of green design needs to be driven by the science of ecology. However, most architects who hold senor positions of influence in architect and engineering firms today are not ecologically literate. We need to design differently. It may be too late for my own generation, many of whom are too set in their ways of designing to adapt. I am hopeful for the next generation of architects and engineers.