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Suoi Re Community House


Cu Yen commune, Lang Son district, Hoa Binh province

Type of Building: Residential Building
New / Refurbished: New
Status: Operational Stage
Year of construction: 2010
Gross Floor Area: 0 sq.m

The building is located in the village of Suoi Re, Luong Son district in Hoa Binh province. This multi-function communal building is an example of a unique design approach that integrates green building principles and tradition, the Viet-Muong culture. The communal house to date, functions as a kindergarten and library during the day and in the evening becomes a gathering place for the villagers to trade in. Various outdoor activities are also provided for in the generous yard.






Hoang Thuc Hao architect and Nguyen Duy Thanh architect







Passive design approaching

Direction and shading

The building is sited in landscape of breathtaking beauty, a backdrop of high mountains and views out toward green valleys.

The spacial arrangement of the building is broken up into three components. The first component is the large open yard located at the front of the building used for community outdoor activities. The second component is the two-storey building itself that accommodates the kindergarten and library on the upper floor and open area for village meetings on the lower floor. The third component is the large veranda that covers the sloped grassed area that rises to meet the upper floor facing the open yard.

The landscape of mountains and valleys while beautiful also highlights the physical and climatic constraints.  These include prevailing Northeast winds in Winter and Southeast winds in Summer.

The approach is based on the following design principles:

  • Taking in cool wind (Southeast) in Summer and avoiding cold wind (Northeast) in Winter
  • Limit direct solar radiation exposure into the building

This was achieved by:

  • Selecting an appropriate building configuration (rectangle) and planning the layout to take advantage of cooling winds in Summer.
  • Ground floor: Utilise the site’s terrain in height and slope by locating the ground floor underground.  This follows the principle that the high thermal mass of soil will maintain warmth in winter and keep cool in summer.  By partially building underground also prevents against direct sun radiation entering the lower floor.  The building’s operable doors are located on the upper floor.  When open the doors allow air to move through to the central staircase and bringing in the cool wind to circulate through the building in Summer and when closed, prevents the cold winds entering in Winter.

2         Diagram of shading principles & In reality

  • First floor:  The veranda roof follows the length of the building to the slope.  This covered open space allows for ventilation through to the building but also provides a temperate zone in winter.

1Ground floor: underground section & First floor: veranda roof overhang for shading

  • The Roof Form and Structure: The building incorporates a large traditional shading structure made from local material (bamboo).  The side awnings are designed to be adjustable allowing for shading to be flexible in various directions.  The adjustable shading also assists in:
    • Maximising covered areas so as to minimize direct solar radiation entering the building which reduces unwanted heat in Summer.
    • Prevents rain but allows for natural ventilation and also does not limit indirect natural light to enter the interior space.


Material – Structure – Roof form

Natural ventilation
The design of the building sought to incorporate the principles of ventilation in both the vertical and horizontal direction.  This was achieved by ensuring openings on the first floor were either operable doors and/or capable of full ventilation.  Partition walls on this level were designed to not block the desirable cooling winds but do block unwanted Winter winds.  The building has a number of skylights that also encourages vertical air movement (the thermal stack principle) that removes unwanted hot air. The location of the staircase also assists in enhancing vertical air movement. The open staircase creates a “wind well” with the aim of directing heat towards the roof (thermal properties of warm air rising while cool air sinks).


Natural ventilation and lighting in the building


The design of Suoi Re Communal House, incorporates a number of experimental passive design systems to ensure natural ventilation and natural day lighting opportunities.  The underground tunnel, elliptical stair atrium, and skylights combine to create a chain of continuous open space that allows for natural air movement and also brings natural day-lighting into the building. The reliance on artificial lighting during day hours is lessened because the building provides such good natural lighting.  Power saving LEDs were installed to provide additional lighting when required.

Green spaces

The communal house is situated on a grassy bank fronting a large open space that is used extensively for community outdoor activities. The large overhanging roof creates a secondary covered space between the open courtyard and the building that allows for sheltered views out across the open yard from the upper floor.  The buried ground floor, which lies behind the grass bank that slopes up from the courtyard, is protected from the cold Northeast Winter wind.  This lower ground area opens to the South, to views of the mountains and bamboo forest.   Villagers and children can gather here at all times of the year because it provides a comfortable space for many activities in hot or cold weather.


Outdoor space & inside space

Active design approaching

Design of water supply and drainage system:

Water is collected and stored in rain water filtered tank system.

Back up power is provided by solar battery system.

The toilet is connected to a five chamber septic system.

The communal house was designed with the principle that unity can be achieved with diversity.  This is also a representation of the relationship of the two dominant local cultures of the region which is expressed in the architecture of the building that combines traditional design elements of the Kinh’s  5 chamber houses and the stilt houses of the Muong.  Unity with diversity is also expressed in the innovative sustainable design fusing with traditional materials and building technique.  The use of traditional materials is a connection to local knowledge.  It is a connection to tradition that the community should be striving to improve and expand particularly to other mountainous rural areas to the North where tradition and local building knowledge is under threat.

Roof materials & Building materials

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