Although environmental concerns rank low on the Thai horizon, the skyline of Bangkok’s exclusive Phahon Yothin neighbourhood is now defined by a radically alternative approach.
In his striking 30-storey condo, clad in high-tech heat-resisting glass, Jean-Luc Colonna d’Istria has customised every element to cut bills and protect his residents’ health while delivering the warm glow of a miniscule carbon footprint.
‘Our analysis shows that the competition has not anticipated the future of regulation, which will arrive in all developed countries,’ says the Corsican developer.
Even the condo’s paints are carefully selected not to release harmful solvents, while residents can drink immaculately clean UV-purified water directly from the tap.
‘For us water’s not a luxury element but something people should have,’ says d’Istria.
But a green conscience is not required to appreciate the central location – near Ari station on the skytrain – or the spectacular view. Rising like an observation tower in a game reserve, the building provides a unique perspective on the habitat of Bangkok’s ‘Old Money’.
Over generations, Thailand’s best-known families have made this neighbourhood a sanctuary of absolute tranquility at the heart of the frenetic city.
In the grounds of the surrounding mansions – prairies of emerald lawn bordered by hoary fruit trees – the leisurely pace of life is set by colossal carp lazing around ornamental ponds.
“We are the last high-rise building to get permission to build in this area. Residents can be sure that nothing is going to spoil the view,” says d’Istria.
Sophisticated design and advanced technology enhance the panorama.
“Essentially, there are no outside walls. The entire outside of the building is glass,” says d’Istria.
Naturally, all this glass is in tune with the overall concept – using a sandwich of layers and coatings to filter out 70% of heat while welcoming 95% of light.
For Cyrille Hareux of Company Vauban, the project’s philosophy suits a particular profile on both practical and ethical grounds.
‘One advantages ofd’Istria’s approach is a 30% saving in bills and low maintenance fees – for instance, all of the outside elements are in metal that will not require painting,’ he says.
But he adds that the condo’s postcode adds an extra draw.
‘We are offering an especially attractive financial package on this property of three years’ guaranteed rental income. We can do that because this location is always going to appeal to upscale expats and Thais,’ he said.
The Green Secrets of Thailand’s first eco-tower
1. To ensure a good night’s sleep, the wiring has been designed to avoid electro-magnetic fields at the head of the bed. Many condominiums trigger insommnia by running wires behind the bed. A particularly strong electro-magnetic field can occur when there are plugs with switches at both sides of the bed.
2. The building’s distinctive ‘wall-free’ design relies on high-tech glass that uses a sandwich of layers and a metallic filter to let through 95% of light while blocking 70% of heat.
3. The air-conditioning units use an invertor system that adjusts the consumption of gas according to need, saving about 30% in cost and energy use.
4. Unlike many developments, the walls are insulated with rock wool rather than glass wool, which gives off particles that can lodge themselves permanently in the lungs if inhaled.
5. Water undergoes UV sterilisation when it arrives in the building. The supply for drinking water taps and ice-makers in each apartment undegoes a further reverse osmosis purification process on the roof.
6. Solvent-free paints have been used to protect residents’ health. ‘When you paint a room, half of the solvent goes into the air and the rest goes onto the wall and is released over one year of 18 months,’ says developer Jean-Luc Colonna d’Istria. ‘Often it is more polluted in a condo than outside, although people feel very safe.’
7. The use of stainless steel and aluminium in the external fixtures cuts maintenance costs by removing the need for regular painting. The building is designed so that its entire maintenance can be performed by a single person.
8. Hot water is supplied centrally using solar panels. When the sun fails to shine, an energy-efficient heat pump kicks in, which takes energy from the surrounding air.
9. The swimming pool’s water is warmed by taking heat from the lobby and by sophisticated heat pump technology. The pool is also purified without using chlorine.
10. Energy-saving features include LED lighting in the corridors triggered by motion detectors.