Black on Black by One Earth: The Most Ideal House for the Tropics

Out of all the similarities of the houses being built in this day and age, one of the most common and undeniable factors is the use and existence of air-conditioning in the home. Tropical countries have their colder seasons but when the heat is there, it’s something that you can hardly ignore. This makes it very understandable for people to think that it’s impossible to provide such comforts without any air-conditioning but somewhere in Malaysia, a genius group of designers known as One Earth were able to pull it off in one of the most resourceful and ingenious ways I’ve ever seen and came in the form of their creation, the Black on Black house.

Before getting into how they alleviated the temperature problems that we so often have to fight against in countries with warmer climates, let us breeze through the aesthetics found in this beautiful home. One Earth is a company that prides itself in recycling whatever it can and this did not change one bit with the Black on Black house. The exterior of the home makes use of torched recycled louver panels which let in natural light in the least intrusive way. It also makes it so that, during the day, you would never need to open any lights to read or work. This is not where the recycling ends as the interior is paraded with recycled pinewood which also resembles a burnt look to match the exteriors better. Since the pinewood gives off a rougher finish compared to the other wall finishes found in the house, the designer also decided to partner this rough finish with a terrazzo counter which was also intentionally finished in the rough texture to compliment each other.

The center of the Black on Black house is a courtyard where you’ll find several leopard trees providing shade to the floors above as well as at the base of the home. This courtyard is roofless so the floor used for this area were pebbles for the rain and runoff to be absorbed by the soil below. At the front and back of the home, you will find the other green features of the home which were put there, not only for its cooling effects on the home but also to add a sense of calmness brought about by these natural breaks. They also served as feature walls for the home as it blocks off the unsightly views of the busy streets located at the front and back of the lot.

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The Black on Black itself is separated into two parts which are connected by the stairs which lead up to the higher floors and a bridge that connects the floors of the two parts. There are quite a lot of steps to take before you reach the rooms on the top floor but it was designed this way by the owner because he wanted to enjoy the view of his leopard trees which extend to nearly the roof of the building as well. The pinewood finishes extend to the bedroom as well as his boxed balcony and his shower room which amazingly is open and simply blocked off by a wall finishing with the same pinewood.

While these are all great features that add character to this beautiful home, the key factor in why they never had or have to use air-conditioning in the Black on Black house is in the openness of the ground floor and the roofless courtyard found at the center of the home. The minimal partitions found on the ground floor as well as the large window and door openings made it very easy to obtain a cross ventilating area. This means that air can move so fluidly that the hot air is not kept anywhere inside the home. Remember that hot air rises and as a product of its rising, cooler air is pulled into the vacated areas. The cross ventilation attained is a big reason why the house can stay cool despite whatever the weather is but it isn’t the only thing contributing to this comfort. The designer combined this cross ventilation with stacked ventilation which is provided by the center courtyard.

With these two types of ventilation cycling the wind within the home all day long, it becomes simple to understand how ceiling fans would be enough to be comfortable in a place like this at any point in a day. Its aesthetics is one great reason to fall in love with this house but I believe the masterful design is the bigger reason why the Black on Black home should be something we work to achieve and mimic. Creating a place like this not only looks good but also is a lot more sustainable in terms of how it can reduce living costs. You’ll live in style and have a lot more cash in your pockets. You just can’t lose.

Photos courtesy of Atelier International

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