Updated: May 28, 2020
If given an opportunity, I hope my ideas can be considered in the University.
Sustainable design is the philosophical basis of a growing campaign that seeks to define how buildings are designed, built, and operated in the environment and responsiveness to people. Some people view sustainable design as a stylistic attempt, which it emphatically is not. It is a philosophical approach to design; it can use on any building at any scale. It transcends the design of buildings to include any object or project under design. Its methodology can be seen from ancient Chinese as mixed studies of anthropology and architecture for over 3000 years of history. This is known as feng shui in ancient China. The art of feng shui was a highly valued professional skill of ancient china. It has been a closely guarded practice in ancient imperial china to build a town involving astronomy, season changes, geography, architecture, construction with human geography, and geopolitics. A known example that is built on these concepts the Forbidden Palace of China.
The goal of feng shui is to enhance the quality of the environment, creating better buildings for people, better products for use and a better place to inhabit. In today’s time, it can be viewed as a holistic approach, a form of sustainable design. It is a sense that represents a revolution in how we think about design, construct, and operate buildings through a cycle of destruction and creation similar to yin and yang principle. For instance, the clearing of land is an act of destruction (yin principle) and the construction of series houses where immigrants occupy is a birth of a new settlement (yang principle).
Sustainable design also implies responsibility and it implies a far-reaching respect for natural systems and resources, respect for people, and respect for the cycle of life. In feng shui, it means a harmonious relationship shared between heaven, earth, and people. Heaven can be seen as a metaphor for sun and/or time. The sunray changes with the season. For example, daylight is longer in the summer season and shorter during winter. Earth represents the land that the occupant spends time. Cities are the product of the earth. Land is a fountain of energy flowing through soil, plants, and animals. People refer to the occupants of the place. People benefit from this energy. The land is alive because it goes through different stages throughout the year. Hence, human experience is transformed into viable signs, symbols, patterns of conduct, systems of order affecting the people’s activity in terms of good and bad outcomes. For this reason, feng shui techniques are developed revolving these three important factors. Hence, the dynasty will rise and fall.
A truly successful feng shui design will enhance a good flow of tangible and intangible forces by combining the heaven, earth, and people theory over a period of time.
An instrument such as luopan 罗盘, feng shui compass was developed to measure these relationships. It is a combination of astronomy, direction, and divination. The rings of the luopan are formulas of techniques used in feng shui. It may differ slightly from one master to another. The complexity of the rings is the result of generations of knowledge pass down. One ring’s formula can be integrating into another formula similar to a computer system.
A popular feng shui verse (左青龍 、右白虎 、后玄武 、前朱雀 ) green dragon is on the left, white tiger is on the right, tortoise at your back and phoenix in the front. It simply describes the landform for an ideal environment to shield early civilization from harsh weather conditions where there is a long mountain range extended on the left and another shorter mountain range on the right, back is a huge mountain, and front is an empty space. The house is located in the center of these elements in the 穴位. Hence, it looks like a person is shielding the civilization. However, this location is uncommon.
It was not all smooth sailing for this study. Because of the cultural revolution, it is illegal to practice in China then. Many talented masters have fled during those days to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, or Australia. It is an upcoming topic in china today. China today, they are beginning to see value in the traditional methods in TCM and Feng shui and have found means to attract talents back to the country again. In China itself, architectural and geography departments are increasingly open to this kind of research.
Feng shui has survived more than 3000 years of history dated back to the Xia Dynasty. It is a need to investigate if Sustainable architectural and feng shui can help humanity to meet the present and future needs of buildings and cities. Feng shui is believed to be goal-oriented. It can create harmony, opportunity in work and improve health.
I have brainstormed some issues today to illustrate feng shui can be sustainable design solution:
· Redirection of economies on Geography location
The study of geographical location with landform in the feng shui principle may suggest the country performance in today’s times. The country performance can be measurable by the economy. For example, Singapore and Malaysia have a special relationship like a dragon presenting a pearl. The mountain of Malaysia acts as a dragon and Singapore as a pearl. Hence, the existence of Singapore is very dependent on Malaysia. Without Malaysia, there will not be Singapore. The stronger Malaysia gets, Singapore will benefit. The railway will bring more businesses to Singapore. In the feng shui system, Singapore's role as a guest and Malaysia as the host implies that Singapore has to act on (build on) the Malaysian economy. The economy of Singapore can thrive in industries that Malaysia lacks. A current example will be the seaport venture between China and Malaysia, Singapore will need to strategize port businesses.
In addition, town planning of the strategic location of ministry can improve the conditions with the people in it. For example, schools are considered a wood element. It is good to be situated with more trees and plants to grow its element. If Singapore were to divide into eight directions and five elements namely; North is water, North-east is earth, East is wood, South-east is wood, South is fire, South-west is earth, West is metal, Northwest is metal and center is earth. Notice between NTU and NUS location. NTU is in the west sector of Singapore belonging to the metal elements. Metal controls wood as Singapore’s煞氣to NTU. NUS is in the South-west sector of Singapore belonging to the earth. Wood controls wood Singapore’s 財氣to NUS. Naturally, comparing between two performance NUS standing will perform better than NTU for a long time to come. Hence, I recommend for any new universities to build in the East (Wood), South East (Wood), and North (Water) of Singapore as it grows education and research. (There are many other techniques to further explain more details.)
As Singapore is a garden city, wood is the main element. Elements that contribute to the country such as water (banking and finance, port, transportation) and wood (education, eCommerce) will tend to more active in the absence of time. For example, eCommerce such as Tabao, Red Mart, Qoo10, Uber are easily accepted in Singapore with the uprising of globalization and technology. Ecommerce is widespread and sellers have competitive prices for consumers. It changes the shopping pattern of people and left the retail business vulnerable. The design of the internal structure of the building will affect the type of retail and businesses in a shopping center or community. Understanding the needs and wants of people may affect the design of the building as the building made up the basic feature of an urban setting. Feng shui for businesses encourages capitalism and grows economic motives especially in Chinese owned businesses like Tangs in orchard road Singapore.
· Green building energy efficiency
Rising consciousness about global warming (climate change), has motivated some countries to push for this new initiative for green building. For example, Singapore launched the BCA Green Mark Scheme in 2005 for promoting awareness and preserve our environment. These are efforts to reduce Global warming and add value to the Singapore wood element feature.
A solution in energy efficiency maybe inspire by its geographical location or even a feng shui five-element analysis. Part of the environmental movement, there are many green efforts to beautify the building such as wall plants. If to enhance the strong wood element, these buildings need to be east sitting and straight and tall like a tree in the feng shui principle. Feng shui will consider the house as a wood element. Any wall plant as a feature of the building will tend to benefit from the tall building characteristic with more sunlight. Feng Shui methodology defines our location to put key features of a building and home-like entrances, exits, staircases, lift, water features, kitchen, toilets, bedrooms. The division of rooms can further add value to the feng shui of the place.
· Space/ open spaces
As population increase, more land is required to build facilities which may result in loss of natural landscapes and ecosystem. Untouched land is limited especially in Singapore and Hong Kong. Old buildings need to be torn down to make way for new buildings.
Open spaces, shared spaces can be used as a community area. Community areas are part of a healing natural system for people such as parks, beaches. Therefore, it is important for the city council to provide enough public spaces for people to interact with. When a community lacks public spaces, a hostile environment is created. Suspicious behaviors are fortified and no trust between people. Worst cases, water systems are dirty and smelly. Such places indicate high illegal activities. Singapore has done its effort in the early days like cleaning the Singapore river and crime rates and gangs have decreased gradually. Consequently, Singapore has been a safer place.
Plants and clean water do value addition to the positive environment. Hence, the challenge to maintain, seek efficiency of space, and to integrate open spaces is designed in living quarters like sky garden is crucial. Tall building that reaches above 30 stories is a common characteristic of a modern urban setting. In the feng shui theory, the building is closely connected to the ground for stability. Too tall and too many openings in a building may need extra enforcement for safety reasons. We have to study the anthropology effects.
In the future, there will be taller buildings. Therefore, Feng shui theories will need to challenge to keep up with times to understand the relationship between high floors and human interaction. The use of the feng shui principle to encourage positive outcomes.
· Housing price
Good feng shui is usually associated with good elements such as view, good accessibility, schools, location of town, rivers. Bad feng shui is associated with negative elements like a power station, cemetery, casino. However, these details are not sufficient for a feng shui consultation.
There is a study: An estimation of the impact of feng shui on housing prices in Taiwan: a quantile regression application. The study showed that feng shui is a very important element in pricing and politics. They concluded that the rich and famous of Taiwanese care more about feng shui whenever possible.
Using the technique 玄空紫白訣 Singapore as earth element in period 8 going to 9, (Period 8 2004-2023 age of earth element, Period 9 2024-2043 age of the fire element). Important elements to note are earth and fire element. Wood element controls earth element as 財氣; earth element direction is South-west, North-east, and center. You will notice places such as Bukit Timah, Bishan, Novena, Pasir Panjang, Punggol area are undergoing development in the physical environment and prices. Next, will be fire element, south direction, Tanjong Pajar, Marina Bay, Raffles, and even Sentosa. Wood produce fire as 淺氣. One can expect to see some changes in those areas, as we approach 2024.
Transportation systems are fundamentals in shaping the land use and physical form of urban areas. The direction of the roads, cross junctions, bus stops, stations are features that contribute to the liveability of the community.
The flow of roads will affect the accessibility of people. In feng shui terms, that money is water. Roads can be seen as a metaphor for rivers which brings businesses. The more accessible the place, the more it will flourish, affecting the development of the place.
Technology has changed the mode of travel and affected the way people live. There are a huge variety of public transportation system (bicycles, bus, trains, airplane, etc.) They also play a key role in reducing automobile use which causes traffic congestion.
In ancient China, the emperor who is believed to be the descendant of “God” is most suitable to sit north and face south to deal with official matters in the forbidden palace. This direction exists as one of the major roads of the country or even train tracks like in Singapore. When Singapore build the earliest train track was the north-south line. It was from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh in 1987. Lately, Singapore frequent break down of trains has signal bad news or impacted the basic lives of Singaporean and even politically. Hence, it is worth investigating the direction of the traffic flow that affects the country prosperity.
· Quality of life
Quality of life can be dependent on the person’s expectations or goals in life at that point. There is no standard definition in quality of life. Quality of life can justify by the comfort level of the individual. Land ethics can also govern the culture of the people which affects the quality of life. Good quality of life in urban or rural areas is different. Even geographical location can be a different means of judging the quality of life. For example, Hong Kong is a place with many hills comparing to Singapore. It is generally more stressful to live in Hong Kong than to Singapore. Feng shui theory states that mountain people are hunters. They have to work very hard to catch their food. Whereas people who live on flat grounds have easier access to food. Food can be farmed or fished. Therefore, mountain people are aggressive than flat land people.
Feng shui supports the goal of comfort through creating the ideal conditions in the given situation. The amount of space for living quarters can be a feng shui related issue and practicality issue. People may feel stress or unsatisfied when their comfort is compromised. The behavior of people may change with rapid population changes. They can lead to an increase in the pace and pressure of life. A rise to new human culture such as singlehood, same-sex marriage, smaller size family, and so on.
Feng Shui is an incisive field in which the west is slowly accepting it and have their try on this topic in recent years. With Singapore’s enriched culture in feng shui, evidence by historic temples and impressive grave, the country is one of the best platforms for this field. Dr. Evelyn Lip Mong Har, architecture lecturer, researcher, and author at the school of architecture studies, NUS has contributed books on feng shui in 1979. 1986, she became the first person to obtain a Ph.D. from the university’s architecture faculty, for her thesis Chinese temple architecture in Singapore. Furthermore, cases like Venerable Hong Chuan attempt to tilt the Hyatt Hotel, Singapore door to invite good businesses, and the famous Bagua 八卦 $1 coin left many people bewildered. Resulting in feng shui to be misunderstood as superstition.
My teachers come from Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We have traveled to many countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, UK, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia for residences and commercial projects. Our customers come from different races and religions. I was and still involved in projects for land selection, space planning, house design.
I propose the investigation of the practicality of feng shui in sustainable design and architecture context. They share many similar traits. This cross-examination is to give this forsaken and misunderstood field of study more justification. The use of data on feng shui has been collected in the ancient imperial department called the 三式部 has been undermined even by practitioners. The feng shui classics like 青囊經、天玉經、 寶照經、陽宅形家透析 、陰宅尋龍點穴 、水龍經、魯班寸白簿、陽陰風水講義、地理六經誙註、玄空理氣經綸、易經、八宅法、奇門遁甲 、葬經、透地六十龍 and more are readily available in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.
Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) mission to integrate multi-disciplinary to nurture technical grounded innovators to serve societal needs has boosted my confidence to challenge this ancient technique with modern research. I hope to realize my ambition to reform my industry practices and bring ethical and practical service to improve the quality of life in society. SUTD would be my choice that no other universities could offer me to break old barriers and explore new worlds.
With a blend of Asian and eastern culture, I believe that SUTD and I can be a good match to overcome the challenges of this study. In the future, to teach this ancient art honestly.