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Residents in high-rise buildings feel the heat more than those in older homes with better insulation

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — Having lived most of his life in a wooden house in Selayang, Dukung Abdul Kadir, 78, said he misses the ventilation he used to get in his old home compared to the current modern one he now resides in — especially in this ongoing heatwave.

Dukung, a cobbler in PJ Old Town, said 17 years ago, when his children renovated and replaced his wooden house with bricks, he never thought he would be missing the clean and cooling air he gets without having to turn on the fan.

“Last time, my house used to be ‘rumah papan’ (wooden house), but now it’s made out of bricks, and I can feel a huge difference.

“During hot weather, you will never feel warm at all in ‘rumah papan’ because it is made of planks, but now it’s not like that. Even if you switch on the fan, you will feel even warmer because it circulates hot air to the environment,” he told Malay Mail when met.

With the heat more unbearable than usual, he said that he cannot afford air conditioners: “All I can do is fix a fan in my house but sadly, it’s doing more harm than good”.

Chan Hee Khoo said he has not experienced much difference in the ventilation. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Chan Hee Khoo said he has not experienced much difference in the ventilation. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Chan Hee Khoo said he has not experienced much difference in the ventilation. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Rising development affecting the temperature

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there was not yet a need for Malaysia to declare a heatwave Emergency, but the government would review this if temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius.

Recently, the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) issued Level 1 alerts for several areas where temperatures had breached 35 degrees Celsius for three days.

Chan Hee Khoo, a resident of Seksyen 1, PJ Old Town for 32 years, said he has not experienced much difference in the ventilation.

“It’s a bit hotter now, but that’s because a lot of shop lots have been developed here. 30 years back, there were fewer buildings and more trees to absorb the heat so, you don’t feel warm,” said Khoo, who owns a household supplies shop in PJ Old Town.

Renganathan, 71, also from PJ Old Town, said air conditioners have become a necessity in this hot weather.

“It’s hotter compared to a few years back. If we are looking at wooden and terrace houses, then there are a lot of differences.

“When I was staying in a wooden house, it was really cool at night and the air ventilation was good, you don’t even need a fan, but now in modern houses, air conditioners have become a necessity, without them you can feel the heat,” he said.

Munniamah Periyasamy, 51, from Taman Medan, was seen setting up a flower stall in PJ Old Town. When approached, she said that even during the rainy season, it’s no longer cooling now.

“Even if it rains continuously, it doesn’t feel cold, it’s not like those days. Last time, even if it rains for one or two hours, you can feel cold air coming into the house,” she said.

Dr Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi explained that older homes with natural ventilation such as attap roofing provides good insulation against heat. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Dr Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi explained that older homes with natural ventilation such as attap roofing provides good insulation against heat. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Dr Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi explained that older homes with natural ventilation such as attap roofing provides good insulation against heat. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Older homes provide good heat insulation

Dr Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi, Professor of Architecture at UCSI University, explained that older homes with natural ventilation such as attap roofing provides good insulation against heat.

“If you are talking about older homes 30 to 50 years ago, that’s different because there weren’t a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, there were more trees to absorb the heat, therefore the temperature wasn’t that hot.

“The older homes that were built of timber, that’s good because timber doesn’t absorb heat,” he told Malay Mail.

He said shophouses are good at keeping the heat outside as it was built with good air well ventilation and courtyards, allowing the hot air to move between the spaces and escape.

However, he pointed out that even houses built with good ventilation these days are still hot as there are not as many trees to absorb the heat.

On the other hand, modern homes like apartments and condominium buildings no longer have air well ventilation like older homes do.

In urbanised areas like Kuala Lumpur and Cheras, houses and buildings are built close to one another, creating an urban heat island effect.

“It is a vicious cycle where urban areas suffer from the urban heat island effect, and people turn to air conditioning and fans to cool down. It actually contributes to more heat,” Tajuddin said.

“The architectural solution is to have some sort of a ‘false wall’ — like the pineapple-like facade of the Parliament building — to absorb the heat from the sun before it hits the wall of the building,” he said.

He commented that it is clever to grow plants on buildings as a way to absorb the heat, however, it is still not as effective as keeping the heat from the sun away from the walls.

Renganathan, 71,  said air conditioners have become a necessity in this hot weather. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Renganathan, 71, said air conditioners have become a necessity in this hot weather. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Renganathan, 71, said air conditioners have become a necessity in this hot weather. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Higher temperature at high-rise apartments

Photographer Syed Azamudden Ahmad Tarmizi, 26, who’s living in an apartment in Sentul, said he heavily sweats in his home in the daytime since the heatwave started.

“My unit is on the 18th floor and it is surrounded by other apartments as well. In the morning, I don’t really feel the heat that much, but around 2pm to 3pm, the sun’s position is straight in our direction. It’s really hot.

“Even when I’m lying on my bed, my body will sweat so much, I had to change the bed sheets from time to time to not let the bacteria from my sweat stay there. I would turn on the fan at the maximum speed and if that didn’t work, I had to go down to the apartment facilities such as the gym to find an air-conditioned place to cool off,” he said.

Living and working in a 26-floor apartment in Putrajaya, media practitioner, Iman Muttaqin, 23 said he is feeling the heat every day during the heatwave.

“I can’t count the amount of time I shower during the day when it gets so hot. I would blast the aircon but still, it’s not enough. I opened my windows to let the airflow in and out. I did so many things to bring down the temperature but it’s so hot.

“I visited one of my relative’s houses in Perak, and it is so much cooler. Yes, it is still hot, but it is still bearable. I didn’t shower as many times like in my apartment. I just can’t wait for this heatwave to be over,” he said.

Munniamah Periyasamy, 51, said that even during the rainy season, it’s no longer cooling now. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Munniamah Periyasamy, 51, said that even during the rainy season, it’s no longer cooling now. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Munniamah Periyasamy, 51, said that even during the rainy season, it’s no longer cooling now. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri