Designing a Luxury Hotel with KAZE Interior Design Studio

By: Katie Kinnon & Molly Headley

Create a concept; mood and function first

Planning a project at KAZE Interior Design Studio, District 2

How to Create Comfort in KAZE Interior Design Studio’s Projects

The Finished Interior Design Project

Creating an Interior Design Concept in Vietnam

What do you want to feel when you walk into a top hotel? This is one of the first questions that the team at KAZE Interior Design Studio asks themselves when they start creating interior design and architectural concept for a new project. Is the hotel meant to create a mood of bespoke luxury or minimal tranquility? Who are the expected guests and how will the lighting, furnishings, flooring and colour scheme transport them?

A hotel is, after all, part of a journey, a place to get away, whether for business or pleasure. A good interior design studio creates that journey from the first sketch to the moment that the final piece of artwork is placed on the wall.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE Interior Design Studio in Ho Chi Minh City is the leader in luxury interior design in Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition to a broad design portfolio including residential, food and beverage establishments, and office spaces, the studio has taken on massive hospitality projects, which have brought numerous awards to the studio. Vinpearl Resort & Spa Long Beach in Nha Trang, Renaissance Riverside Hotel in Saigon and Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh are a few notable names on a list of more than 100 projects.

Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen, Founder of KAZE Interior Design Studio, was brought up and educated in Denmark where, she explained, the design approach is very different to that of Vietnam. For a hotel designed for a Vietnamese market, she said that she would avoid using too minimalistic of an approach because the clientele would feel like something was missing. Instead, she tries to give finished projects a Vietnamese flair that local clientele will also enjoy.

First Steps in the Design Process at KAZE Interior Design Studio in HCMC

The Client Brief

Fong-Chan explains that with her years of experience she has come to quickly understand her clients psychologically and often knows what they want more than they do. She will offer recommendations on how the concept can be improved after receiving the brief. Fong-Chan will then return to the KAZE headquarters where the whole team will sit around the large table in the meeting room and discuss how to implement the project, always focusing on a “function first” approach. This approach means that aesthetics are only considered once space’s use is decided upon.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

The Planning Process

This is when the ideas go from the brainstorming phase to reality. The office becomes a hive of energy as project designers sketch plans and junior designers figure out how to create the right ambiance. Fong-Chan explains that her team is passionate about what they do and that’s why KAZE is a success. “Being a good designer comes from inside, you put your heart and soul into things you care about”, she reiterates.

Fong-Chan states there are four parts to every project, the statement of purpose, layout, ambiance, and storyboard. When executed correctly, interior design can make people feel a certain way. For example, the purpose of a reception area in a hotel is to welcome guests and so the way furniture is positioned, the brightness of lights and even the scent (which are often created specifically for the brand) create an ambiance of warmth, comfort and relaxation.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

3D renderings are essential for each project. They need to be self-explanatory and easy to understand. However, they can be difficult to get right due to the level of precision needed. It can be hard even for good designers to see things in 3D. A designer needs to be able to describe what the space will look like down to the tiniest detail, like where a coat hook will go. This helps to create a full picture of how everything will be pieced together. The 3D renderings are literally the map that will be used to build the project; therefore, nothing should go into the rendering that cannot be created in reality.

How to Create Comfort and Beauty; The Vietnam Hotel Design Challenge

Every designer has a different way to approach a design. Fong-Chan tries to use a modern holistic approach when she designs any space. This is especially important when it comes to a project like a hotel where the success of the project is tied directly to how guests feel when they are within the space. Her design projects focus on what makes people feel good, using psychological experiences rather than just aesthetics.

Designers need to work out the proportions of the room as well as what will be in it so that when it is built an individual can walk around a room without bumping into anything. The team also research how people will interact with the space, ensuring it is ergonomically friendly in every detail. For example, if a guest wants to flick on the lights, where should the light switch be? If it is at the right height and in an intuitive location then the designer can choose a subtle design so that the switch doesn’t ruin the aesthetic of the wall design. If the switch is too hidden and in the wrong place, guests won’t care about the beauty of the design, they will be too caught up in their feelings of frustration. Some designers get so caught up in their vision that they create functionality problems that will end up marring the hotel’s TripAdvisor page with bad reviews based around comfort, soundproofing, and the user experience.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE interior design studio puts a lot of love and care into the materials they use. The way Fong-Chan describes her process is akin to that of a chef creating their favorite dish. She becomes excited when speaking about why wood is used in one instance, but plastic is used in another and the different finishes that are available for each material. It is important for Fong-Chan to use local materials because construction workers know how to work with them and look after them properly. This also helps the project’s sustainability as expensive materials don’t need to be imported.

Completing a Hotel Interior Design Project in Vietnam

Fong-Chan explains that KAZE only works with people they know and trust. From construction workers to cleaners “when people have a good relationship with each other they will go the extra mile.” This is important because the biggest hurdle to completing an interior design project is to meet final deadlines.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

During the construction process, KAZE interior design studio office often goes into a frenzy of activity, with project plans and Gantt (production timeline) charts being thrown into the bin and new ones being created. Sometimes, Fong-Chan admits, the end of a project can feel like an unattainable dream. However, when the hotel or resort is finally finished and Fong-Chan walks through the completed space with the client, she always feels a sense of pride at what the team at KAZE Interior Design Studio has achieved.

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


Quality over Quantity: KAZE Confronts Cheap Construction

By: John Mark Harrell

Foreign and local developers often prioritise profits over future-proofing.

The next generation is pushing for a bright future.

One of the secret “perks” to living in Ho Chi Minh City is that, for most residents, an alarm clock isn’t necessary. Every morning at around 7:00 am, 7 days a week, construction crews diligently start their work, ostensibly eager to do as much possible before the sweltering heat of midday. The shrill shouting of workers and the rumbling of jackhammers drilling into concrete is the near-constant soundtrack of one of Southeast Asia’s most rapidly-developing urban hubs.

In the past decade, HCMC has seen some dramatic new developments radically transform the city’s skyline, from modern urban developments in the Phu My Hung ward of District 7, to the Vinhomes mega-complex and Landmark 81, which is currently Southeast Asia’s tallest skyscraper. Relatively loose zoning restrictions have allowed massive developments, for better or worse, to break ground just about anywhere that space allows in this growing metropolis.

KAZE

Elsewhere in Vietnam, huge new projects in major urban centers and tourist destinations like Nha Trang, Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Ha Long, and Hanoi have expanded rapidly to attract more tourists, provide more housing and office space, and lure foreign investors. Vietnam’s economy is one of the world’s fastest-growing, with steady increases in foreign investment, tourism, and GDP predicted well into the next decade.

Is Growth Outpacing Sustainability?

What does this rapid growth mean, practically, for locals and expats living and working in Vietnam? More foreign investment, as well as foreign development companies breaking ground on new projects in Vietnam, could introduce their expertise with more advanced and modern building techniques, including sustainable materials and future-proof designs, in a relatively young development market.

According to Danish architect Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen, founder of KAZE Interior Design Studio in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2, this is most often not the case. 

“Big investment buyers come to Vietnam to invest in a development project and flip them for a 20% yield,” she says. “So the local real estate market is getting watered down with cheap, quick projects that turn a high profit margin regardless of actual build quality.”

This attitude and mindset toward development makes it very difficult for interior design professionals at KAZE to take on new projects with the full extent of their expertise. “Consultants are used more as tools, not valued for their consultancy,” Fong-Chan says.

KAZE

In practice, this means developers most often seek the cheapest and most cost-effective solutions, rather than the smartest solutions that will save them and their end users from trouble further down the road. Interior design firms like KAZE, unfortunately, are often sought out merely to “rubber stamp” the process the developer has already determined in advance. With little to no thought given to environmental concerns and sustainability, this is a growing concern for many professionals who work with local developers.

Part of the problem stems from the young development market in Vietnam interacting with larger development conglomerates investing from afar. “Locals often don’t have lots of experience,” Fong-Chan says. “And [foreign developers] don’t have experience working with locals. Some developers have no idea what they’re doing—they’re first time developers.”

Newer technological advancements and sustainable building practices are eschewed in favour of more old-fashioned techniques that are cheaper and produce faster results. But those results aren’t always pretty; seeing cracks on the walls of brand new buildings in Vietnam is a common phenomenon, largely due to the construction materials, like bricks and mortar, not given enough time to dry out and “settle” before completing the construction process (as they dry, their composition and dimensions change). 

Building materials are most often chosen based on how cheap they are—not whether their production or use is environmentally-friendly. Not only can they be damaging to the environment, however, they can actually be hazardous to human health as well. White asbestos is still widely-used in construction projects throughout Vietnam, and it wasn’t until 2018 that the government unveiled a roadmap to eliminate its use entirely by 2023.

One only has to look to the development of other huge metropolises throughout Asia to see similar patterns from their earlier stages of development. The infamous high-rise apartments in Hong Kong, for example, are exemplary of cheap, quick construction methods with little concern for end users and low-quality materials that degrade quickly overtime and increase long-term costs. 

“In many cases we’re creating really bad living environments,” Fong-Chan says. “We’re not learning from mistakes that the other big cities have made.”

Beyond the developments themselves, these new high-rises often put a strain on local infrastructure. As the city eliminates green spaces due to the influx of traffic brought about by huge new housing developments, unseen problems are just beginning to come to light. In its current state, no water treatment or sewage system can support the number of new high rises being built at such a dizzying rate. For a city already struggling with pollution and increased flooding due to climate change, all these new developments could place even more pressure on an already overloaded system.

Hope for the Future

So what does this mean for the future of Vietnam? It’s a complex problem that developing countries all over the world struggle with as investors respond to market demands. 

“Ultimately, the demand for quality is missing,” Fong-Chan points out. “Developers are not saving the environment or costs for the end user. They’re just looking for a quick turnover.”

Because of inefficient building materials and lack of energy-saving methods, it is most often the end users who are footing a higher monthly bill as a result. If foreign investors are only fixated on short-term returns, many of these new developments will actually cost property owners and business owners more money further down the line.

KAZE

The challenge, therefore, is to increase consumer demand for buildings that are not just fashionable and functional now, but whose design and quality will stand the test of time. As the younger generation becomes more conscious of the environment and their own health, through growing global interconnectedness and education, there remains hope for the future.

Increasingly, we should be asking: should big foreign corporations not take some responsibility for the host country they are building in and making money off of? Shouldn’t we demand that they bring more innovative, advanced, sustainable solutions, instead of just exploiting the environment for a quick profit?

“KAZE is in the industry, questioning the direction we’re going as a community,” Fong-Chan says. “We are always pushing to create new sustainable communities with new developments.“

KAZE

New developments do create new communities that didn’t exist before. It is in these developments that the tremendous opportunity lies to build something that exists in harmony with the environment and promotes human health and happiness—not just for a quick return now, but for the benefit and economic well-being of Vietnam for generations to come.

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


Ibis Saigon Airport: A New Flagship for AccorHotels in Vietnam

By: Arik Jahn

The First International Brand to Open an Airport Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — With an electrifying event, ibis Saigon Airport, AccorHotels’ brand-new hotel sitting right next to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, celebrated its grand opening on 24 March 2017. Ibis Saigon Airport is the latest addition to AccorHotels’ vast hospitality network in Vietnam.

Ibis hotel

Over a hundred guests, including Ho Chi Minh City officials, representatives from AccorHotels and the hotel’s owner company Hado Group attended the event, which paid tribute to ibis Saigon Airport with an opulent buffet, contemporary dance performances and a rooftop party.

“A Milestone for the ibis Brand”

The ibis Saigon Airport’s major asset is its strategic position: a mere 500 metres from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the gateway to Ho Chi Minh City and all of Vietnam. Xavier Cappelut, Accor’s regional Director of Operations for Middle Scale & Economic Brand Hotels, praised the hotel as “a significant milestone for the ibis brand” thanks to its one-of-a-kind location.

Ibis Saigon Airport is a haven of hospitality tailored to corporate travellers and all those looking for “Value for Money”. With its functional and stylish travel-themed design and an outstanding 24-hour food and beverage service at the in-house Oopen restaurant, this hotel truly honours ibis’ slogan, “Well-being at the best price”.

ibis

As the first international airport hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, ibis Saigon Airport goes beyond the usual amenities of the economy sector. Its room typology – standard rooms, family rooms, studios, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments – is unrivalled in the budget segment, catering to the individual needs of each and every guest, from corporate clients to travelling families, from short-stay to long-stay visitors.

INTERVIEW WITH ORESTE TRAETTO, GENERAL MANAGER, IBIS SAIGON AIRPORT

Question: What makes ibis Saigon Airport the first choice for business travellers in Ho Chi Minh City?

Mr. Traetto: Our hotel is strategically tailored to business travellers. Our Oopen restaurant is open 24 hours and we are the only international hotel chain offering a breakfast service from 4 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock [in the afternoon]. So if you have an early flight to catch, you will be able to grab some food, get a coffee, hop on our free shuttle to the airport and you’ll be there in five minutes.

ibis oopen

Or imagine you are a businessperson, and had a hard working day. At ibis Saigon Airport, we provide you with all the facilities to truly reenergise you. What is very important to us is the ibis ‘sweet bed’ that can give you a really good rest. We have incredibly good feedback from our clients about it. And all that, I believe, shows how we really cater to the customers’ needs.

Question: You are very proud of ibis Saigon Airport’s in-house venues. Can you tell me a bit more about them?

Mr. Traetto: Today, travellers, even though they stay for a short amount of time, they want to optimise their stay. Now, with The Hub, ibis Saigon Airport has the only rooftop bar in  Tan Binh District. When you finish your work, you go upstairs, get a beer and enjoy the view of landing airplanes. We have a pool, we have a steam bath, we have a sauna, we have a gym – this is definitely what gives us the opportunity to attract a specific segment of clients. We provide our guests with a place to relax.

We are, if I may say so, part of the new generation of ibis hotels.

ibis hotel view

INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER CAPPELUT, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR MIDDLE SCALE & ECONOMIC BRAND HOTELS, ACCORHOTELS

Question: AccorHotels is home to many brands. Why did you choose the ibis brand for this particular project?

Mr. Cappelut: I think this is a very unique location. The guests who choose to stay close to the airport have very specific needs. They might be in transit for a few hours, they might be spending their last night in Vietnam after a trip. We believe the level of comfort provided by ibis is just the right amount for these specific customers.

And the beauty of a brand like ibis is: you can travel anywhere in the world, you will find the same layout, the same service, the same comfort. Guests choose ibis because they know exactly what they can expect. That’s a guarantee that we provide to our customers. And they appreciate it.

Question: Vietnam is a country with an immense potential for tourism. How does ibis Saigon Airport serve this very particular market?

Mr. Cappelut: Vietnam is very important to us as a group. We, AccorHotels, have been in Vietnam since 1991. Back then, we were the only international hospitality company in Vietnam. That shows how committed we are to Vietnam as a business location.

And today, this country is developing at a dizzying pace. Last year, there was a 26% increase of international visitors and a 9% growth in the domestic market in Vietnam.These are incredible numbers.

And of course, we try to attract Vietnam’s domestic guests. The ibis brand perfectly caters to them because it is a functional, but full-service product that offers “Value for Money”.

Ibis Saigon Airport is quite simply the right product in the right place at the right time. And it is highly visible. In fact, we couldn’t be more visible than here at the airport. In that sense, ibis Saigon Airport is Accor’s flagship in Vietnam.

ibis hotel room

AccorHotels’ journey in Vietnam is far from over. In the next two years, the group plans to open another 12 hotels all over the country, which will bring its total portfolio to 36. But thanks to its eminent location next to one of Vietnam’s most important travel hubs and its many amenities, ibis Saigon Airport is undoubtedly a go-to for all Ho Chi Minh City-bound travellers.

 


Deutsches Haus: German World-Class Design in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Deutsches Haus is “the symbol of the strategic partnership and friendship between Vietnam and Germany.”

On the 1st of August 2017 Deutsches Haus, Southeast Asia’s most eco-friendly and well-constructed building, will open its doors on the corner of Le Duan and Le Van Huu in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, right beside the InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The 25-storey, 40,000 gross sq m building represents the union of the Vietnamese and German governments, showcasing modern German technology and acting as a model of sustainable design.

In 2011, Germany’s Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a declaration establishing the partnership between Germany and Vietnam, designed to strengthen the political, economic and cultural relations of the two countries.

For the past five years, Germany has been Vietnam’s biggest trade partner in the European Union, totaling a trade volume of US$8.92 billion in 2015 alone. The Deutsches Haus is to be the central platform for German and Central European companies doing business with Vietnamese and other ASEAN businesses, as well as the place to be for cultural exchange and relations.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The project aims to receive the USGBC LEED Platinum certification - the highest level of green certification possible. This will be the first building in Vietnam to receive LEED’s Platinum level, and is one of a few in Southeast Asia. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally recognised certification that ensures a building uses less water and energy, has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, pays particular attention to its construction material (and their effects on health and environment), and much more.

Examples of LEED Platinum certified buildings include the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, U.S., which contain the world’s only Platinum certified greenhouse; the massive Taipei 101 building in Taiwan; Canada’s Manitoba Hydro Place, quoted by CBC News as one of "the most energy-efficient office towers in the world”; Kohinoor Hospital, Asia’s first LEED Platinum certified hospital; and other select stadiums, hospitals, office buildings, conservatories, universities, convention centers and homes around the world.

Currently, there are only a total of 40 green certified buildings in the country, based on two certifications: LEED, and LOTUS (a certification similar to LEED, but more attuned to Vietnam’s climate and conditions). The first building to garner a LEED certification in Vietnam was a manufacturing facility owned by Colgate-Palmolive. The Diamond Lotus is a LEED-certified condominium project that will have three connected apartment complexes covered in bamboo, to be built in the coming years.

The design of Deutsches Haus has been entrusted to world-renowned architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who has over 50 years of experience. Gerkan has designed Tegel Airport, Lingang New City, the National Museum of China, the Hanoi Museum, Hamburg Airport, both the National Assembly and the National Convention Center in Hanoi, and many others. The design he undertook for Deutsches Haus is meant to express Germany’s role as an industrial and technological leader in the form of sustainable architecture, as well as German-standard architecture abroad.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The building’s double façade will eliminate the heat of the sun while allowing a great deal of sunlight to pass through, minimizing artificial light usage while ensuring a comfortable interior. In addition, this “double skin” will reduce noise and provide superior thermal insulation.

This façade is unique in Vietnam and is to be a milestone for future developments. LED lights will be used throughout the building for brighter and more energy-efficient lighting; the building’s air will be cleaned through a superior hospital grade filtration system; personal comfort is pushed to the forefront with particular attention to localised temperature control, centralised dehumidification, shading and daylight control and integration of all non-life systems; rooftop solar panels will be able to power the building’s lobbies during normal business hours; and a thorough plan for the building’s water system includes rainwater harvesting, grey water flushing systems and the reuse of treated sewage for irrigation and cooling.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The city is certainly in need for a greener urban environment: according to numbeo.com, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked the ninth most polluted city globally. This is more than evident in the amount of noise and smog one encounters while cruising around the city by motorbike. Although initiatives are being taken by introducing electric buses and other green projects, until the population adapts more sustainable practices, greener buildings are a necessary beginning.

The building will feature premium office space; a residential living space on the top floors; the largest rooftop terrace in the city; a pool and a fitness center; a multi-functional conference, exhibition and event-space; a restaurant; public areas with workspaces; coffee shops; a mobile washing station for cars and motorbikes parked at one of the four basement parking levels; raised floors (functioning to hide wires and regulate room temperature); and a fully-featured lobby. The lobby will feature screens projecting weather, German and European news, the building’s environmental stats, and will include an air freshener system, German artwork, and architecturally congruent seating. The building will also be the new home for the German Consulate and other German and European institutions.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

This is a serious undertaking in a city full of delimiting regulations and architectural mishaps. The building is an example for the entire country to follow - projects integrating some of its features have already began construction in Vietnam. The Deutsches Haus is to be an environmentally and culturally sound representation of the city’s international future - and it seems to have been entrusted to the right hands for the job.

Image source: flickr.com


How to choose a place to live in Ho Chi Minh City?

By: City Pass Guide

What about the different places to live in Ho Chi Minh City?

Properties in District 1 and District 3 are sought after for their good schools, offices and markets, but District 2 and District 7 are becoming hubs in their own right. And as traffic congestion and property values rise in town, the less congested districts of Bình Chánh and Nhà Bè are increasingly popular among wealthy Vietnamese.

Video source: DJSharks71

When choosing a place to live in Ho Chi Minh City, take into consideration its proximity to good schools, family, commercial centres and work, along with the character of the neighbourhood, quality of life and the available infrastructure.

Another element that should be considered is flooding. With Saigon’s long rainy season and inadequate drainage system for rivers and street overflow, heavy rain or high tides can cause extensive flooding in the streets.

When choosing your new home, it is important to ask whether it will flood on your way to work. If you don’t ask this seemingly bizarre question, you may find yourself pushing your beloved motorcycle through a street of black water with a drowned carburettor and exhaust. This is one of the reasons taxi drivers in HCMC love the rainy season.

HCMCImage source: codiemaps.files.wordpress.com

Note also that while it’s cheaper to rent in outlying districts, most businesses function in the Central Business District (CBD). So the savings you make on rent could be negated by your then extensive commute to work.

What about living in District 1?

District 1, with its reverse L-shape, is the location of HCMC’s CBD and the bulk of the city’s Western restaurants, clubs, bars and tourist destinations.

It is not surprising that rental prices here are the highest. The CBD spans from Nguyễn Huệ and Đồng Khởi and stretches north to south from the Saigon River to Lê Lợi. HCMC’s Little Tokyo, on Lê Thánh Tôn from Hai Bà Trưng to Tôn Đức Thắng, is another fascinating area.

HCMCImage source: qtxasset.com

Because of its consistent vibrancy and upbeat nightlife, District 1 is ideal for singles. The city never sleeps!

What about living in District 2?

Once one of the poorest districts in the city, District 2 is now a fast-developing hot spot. Passing under the Saigon Tunnel on Mai Chí Thọ and seeing the cranes in the distance will give an indication of the city’s plans to create a second CBD. With its close proximity to District 1, District 2 will also be the first stop on the city metro line.

HCMCImage source: sasaki.com

The district’s expat enclave, Thảo Điền ward, has two of the most prestigious international schools, as well as villas and compounds and a fair few Western restaurants and bars. Because of its international schools, District 2 is home to many expats with young families. Its ambience is more suburban than big city, despite rapid development, and the streets are less crowded than in the CBD. Floodings in many parts of the district are still common, though.

Video source: CapitaLand

What about living in District 7?

District 7 feels like an alternative universe compared to other parts of town. The streets are wide, congestion hardly exists and the atmosphere is mostly free of the blaring horns of downtown Saigon. The district is home to a large population of Korean expats and is the place to go for great Korean food. Inside District 7 is the satellite city of Phú Mỹ Hưng, which is characterised by tall apartment blocks and modern shops and restaurants.

HCMCImage source: phumyhung.com.vn

There are lots of Japanese and rich Vietnamese too. You can find great schools and the city’s best shopping malls here. Several peaceful parks are available in the district, and are great for picnics with friends and family. D7 is around 15 minutes from the city centre outside of peak hours, and relatively free of flooding.

What about living in District 3?

Bordering D1 in the centre of HCMC, District 3 is quieter, more local and a touch more scenic than its manic neighbour. The tree-lined avenues snake around a smattering of foreign consulates, French colonial buildings and up and-coming dining venues.

HCMCImage source: c2.staticflickr.com

What about living in District 4?

The smallest district in HCMC, District 4 is sandwiched between D1 and D7. This densely populated district had a reputation as one of the roughest parts of the city due to its organised-crime past, but it has cleaned up quite a bit in recent years. It is also known for its cheap eats and has some of the best street food in the city.

HCMCImage source: willflyforfood.net

What about living in District 5?

This district to the west of D1 is also known as Chợ Lớn, home to the city’s Chinese population. A teeming hub of activity, it hosts one of the largest markets in Vietnam, a deluxe shopping mall and many Chinese pagodas. It is also known for its cheap Chinese restaurants.

Video source: Chợ Lớn Kìa

What about living in Bình Thạnh District?

This district is a transit hub between D1 and D2, and embodies much of the vibrancy of Saigon several decades ago. Due to its proximity to D1 it has become a magnet for higher-end apartment blocks such as the Manor and Saigon Pearl. It is also home to the Bình Quới area which has some of the greenest spaces in town.

HCMCImage source: en.vinhomestancang.co

What about living in Phú Nhuận District?

Located near Tan Son Nhat airport, Phú Nhuận has one of the highest population densities in the city and can be a bit manic to live in. If you are looking for some escape, it has several parks where you can relax.

HCMCImage source: vinasctax.vn

Banner Image source: MPhoto.vn


Meet the Expert: Charles Gallavardin on sustainable architecture in HCMC

By: Patrick Gaveau

Today, the demand for more sustainable design in HCMC is steadily getting off the ground. Charles Gallavardin of T3 Architecture Asia sat down with Citypassguide.com to give his perspective on green buildings in Vietnam. Charles and his wife started T3 Architecture in France in 2007, specialising in green architecture. When Charles arrived in Vietnam in 2011 to begin T3 Architecture Asia, the demand for green building was low, although interest was growing. We spoke with Charles to determine what changes were taking place to catalyse this newfound interest.

What is the definition of a green building for you?

It’s a building well integrated into the place it’s set up at. It should take the landscape into consideration - the shape of the building is quite important, to be protected from the sun and allow for natural ventilation. The idea is to avoid direct light in a hot tropical climate; that’s why we design overhangs or balconies, to take the facade away from the sun, so you keep your main walls in the shadows.

Secondly, you have to take care of the roof, and make sure there is a double ventilated roof to keep the air flow and make the top floor always cool. Then, ideally, you try to use green building materials, sourced not too far from where you are.

Why does Saigon need such type of construction?

Saigon is one of the more polluted cities in Asia now. There is a huge issue concerning air pollution. The demand of energy is getting higher than what can be produced. What we can see for many years is that Vietnam is mainly doing a “copy-paste” of buildings they saw in Western countries with full glass facades but they didn’t realise that the climate is totally different and that they have to create their own style to make their building more appropriate to the climate, to save energy, save costs and make the building more comfortable.

Do you think one of the main challenges to building green buildings in Vietnam has to do with people’s perception?

Yes. I think when you discuss this with most Vietnamese, of course they want more parks and more green areas. But in reality, in urban development in Vietnam, this is still considered a quantity issue. Which means they try to plant vegetation to increase the number of green area per square meter per inhabitant, but without having in mind that it’s better to have many small parks than having long green areas along the highway. It is the same story with green buildings: a green roof doesnæt make your building green.

 

Do you think one of the main concerns for people who don’t understand green buildings too well is the fear of additional costs?

I don’t think so, because finally we can do green buildings quite cheap, depending on the material you use. But the green principles are very basic and you can find it everywhere in the traditional architecture of Vietnam. Traditionally you have your long and narrow plot, with the shop facing the street, the house on the backside and a courtyard in the middle. The air ventilation is efficient and you have natural light in your house and your shop. The house is far from the street so it’s far from the noise. For 20-30 years, Vietnamese have lost their knowledge of how to create a green house, but recently some young Vietnamese architecture firms take traditional building materials and traditional Vietnamese architecture and incorporate it in a more modern sense to make the house more green.

So green houses are one issue, but can you tell us about the problem of green urban areas? Is this something that can happen in Vietnam?

Yes, it could. But what we can see in the development in Vietnam, it’s always private investors who wield the city, and their model is a Singaporean one, but with a lower budget and less knowledge. There are really few alternatives for high-rise buildings and private houses. So when you have a private house, the plot is usually very small, and you have very few green areas. And for high-rises, you need to build these by large streets if you follow regulations, so then you have very narrow green areas.

One solution would be to make the city very dense, with apartment blocks lower with some streets more narrow, but keeping some spaces open for parks and public gardens, like we have in Europe.

Is the government aware and sensitive about the need to do something about that?

Yes, they are. There are many discussions about this. But if you’re a private investor and you finance infrastructure, the government cannot complain too much about what you do. You try to optimize your plot as much as possible.

Is it possible to bring more awareness to private investors by showing them the financial reward in doing so?

Yes. In America and Europe, the government pushes green building by giving a loan or some advantage. The government in Vietnam doesn’t have a lot of money, so they’ve let the private investors do the development. But private investors’ awareness is going up because they see people want more green spaces, nice areas around their apartments, so it’s starting to change.

Is it feasible to build a green house or building using only locally sourced material?

Yes, it’s possible. There are many materials available; less than Western countries or Singapore, but enough to build something green. The prices are the time.

What about reusing old material. Is that something that happens in Vietnam?

Yes, a bit. For example, many architects reuse wooden shutters for part of the facade to use as ventilation. But not so much, since the quality of the construction is not so good and when you destroy a house there’s not much you can use.

Some years ago I met with an architect and he told me something that surprised me. He said that Vietnam is one of the best countries in the world for recycling. When a house is being dismantled, the Vietnamese will often take every brick and every cable, to try and reuse it for some other purpose. Is this true?

This is partially true. They reuse material by placing it on natural soil to make it not porous anymore, and then they pour cement over it to make a concrete slab. But then you have the problem that you don’t have enough natural soil then to absorb the water during rainy season, and it makes flooding a very important issue in the near future.

Energy consumption is growing, meaning the price has to go up, which means it makes sense to have more energy efficient practices and buildings, correct?

Yes, this happens in every city. When energy prices go up, green houses and buildings become more and more normal. Of course, for Vietnam, electricity cost is very low, even compared to the standard of life. One issue, even though it’s never easy for government to say that they have to increase electricity costs, especially for poor people, it’s a real way to make developers and private investors more concerned about energy savings.

In 10 years from now, what do you think the state of green buildings will be in Vietnam?

Green construction has been developing more and more, first in hospitality projects; you have international guests, so five or six years ago in the private sector and even residential projects, Vietnamese started to be more concerned about energy and cost savings, and the quality of the environment. Thanks to Vietnamese architects and small agencies, we can do something more.

Almost none of the existing high-rises in Ho Chi Minh City are really environmentally friendly. If the price of energy rises, most of these building will have to be rebuilt or adapt to the new demands. And you provide this service?

Yes, full renovation to adapt an existing building and make it less costly in terms of energy, and most important of all we make it more comfortable for people!

How big of a project is it for someone who wants to make their home more green?

Usually, you have to touch up the facade and main structure, so it’s a bit costly, but you don’t have to demolish all. It can be from some very simple like adding shutters, to touching up the roof at VND 3 million per sq m, up to VND 10 million per sq m to redo something very properly and almost reconstruct the house.

Is the wiring in Vietnam efficient?

In terms of fire hazards and electric shock, no. 

And LEDs?

There is a huge market for LEDs. They are replacing halogens with LEDs everywhere, more and more in residential projects. But before thinking about advanced technology and costly equipment - which is important also - the first thing is to try and hire a good designer when you are creating a building. And if the design is well done you are sure to have very low consumption. And of course you put some LEDs and solar panels. One of the problems in Vietnam and in developing countries in general is people don’t think of the basics. Once you do this, then you can think of the high-tech equipment and energy efficiency.


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