While sun and wind are quintessential to built spaces, passive-design architecture looks at managing waste outputs from the house, says Australian architect Maxwell Roy Barcham in an interview with RANJANI GOVIND

Architect Maxwell Roy Barcham is an Australian from Perth with over 30 years of experience. A recipient of many awards for his designs, Barcham won a commission in 1995 to design and manage the 'Island Boat Marina n Resort' project for the Malaysian Government at Langkawi. He has designed the award-winning home 'House on the Hill' in Perth. The green architect who has also designed many other prestigious projects in Malaysia and the Philippines was in Bangalore to attend to some of his projects that he has undertaken here.

PropertyPlus spoke to Maxwell Roy Barcham on how simple natural elements such as the sun and the wind have an influence on the design, and how ‘healthier spaces’ can be brought about with passive-design.


How do you see the evolution of the green architecture movement?

About 30 years ago, the then Government of Western Australia started a design competition for simple passive-design architecture. This competition opened the doors for architects to use natural elements and transform them into battery power to run electrical equipment — simply sun and wind power. It was a great learning curve for all architects. As practising architects, we should be aware of how these simple things have a great influence over our design. We are not designing for ourselves, but have to be responsible for others who will live in these spaces. However, in my 30 years of practice, I can see that simplicity of passive-design has become such a technical area or work. Sometimes I feel that it is a bit exaggerated too.

Is green architecture achieved more by use of local materials or is it made possible by pure design?

While sun and wind are natural elements that have been given to us to be transformed into power, passive-design architecture looks at managing waste outputs from the house. To be able to stock the liquid wastes and solid wastes in containers, converting them into compost, producing methane from this over time and transforming this gas to power. Of course using local recycled materials for buildings is another way. Using insulated clay bricks goes a long way in achieving savings in energy.

However, in a very big way, through passive design, we also look at how the buildings could be oriented. For instance, in residential dwellings, we divide the space into living areas, private areas and service areas. We make sure service areas are all in alignment so there is not much wastage of water and need for extra pipes.

We design the house in such a way that the house is protected against the harsh summer sun, while we also ensure that the winter sun is able to come into the house and warm up the living spaces. It’s all about letting natural light and air in and reduce the pressure on power consumption. Keeping this design aspect in mind, in Australia, most houses flaunt nice, long verandahs.

Are verandahs quintessentially part of Australian living?

Yes, I could say that all Australian homes have beautiful verandahs that allow the outdoors to flow into the indoors. Lifestyle is all about the great outdoors in Australia, and verandahs contribute much to this. Australian houses have nice, wide sliding doors that open into a beautiful patio in the backyard with an extended roof-top. These outdoor areas are very much part of the interiors of the house with the doors kept open during the day. 

Since you are working on a few projects in Bangalore now, how does the city’s famed weather aid in passive designing?

The conditions in Bangalore are very similar to Perth, where I come from, except for the strong winds one sees in Perth. Bangalore has a great climate, great outdoors and not much of a change of seasons. That is the reason why passive-design considerations should be easy to adopt in Bangalore for architects.

In fact, the green design concept is becoming very big in Bangalore and India than it is in Australia. I only hope that it does not become a great marketing tool, but it should be meaningful as well.

Tell us about your current work in Bangalore…

We are currently working on the Hebron Enclave, a 72-villa Australian-themed project spread over 11.5 acres. It is a pre-certified LEED platinum rating project which is a dream of every green architect.

We have attempted to bring in the outdoors, with plenty of natural light and air that come in. We have used recycled materials like clay, stone and even laminated wooden flooring, so as to reduce the consumption of timber, due to the depleting forest cover.

We are also working on a private farmhouse on Kanakapura Road, and on a 228-townhouse development spread over six acres near Electronics City allowing us to deal with pockets of greening.