Nam On, EcoVillage of Hope

Nam On,  EcoVillage of Hope: draft 1

learning from the

Environmental Best Practices and sustainable architecture of Hakka Villages

• generic Pattern Language of indigenous vernacular Chinese architecture



Positive Features of Hakka Village architecture for application to the Nam On project:


01) PREFACE  these observations and conclusions evolved out of:
a) research between December 2006 and March 2007 through internet and contacts
b) trip to Hakka villages (tulou) in Fujian province, April 1 to 9, 2007 with our team of 4

• Hakka villages are an excellent precedent for sustainable communities ,
• they are excellent examples of sharing and caring for individuals, families and culture
• some aspects of Hakka lifestyle such as comfort index are worthy models to respect
• Hakka floor plans are ideal for an orphanage, especially the room layout
• central courtyards are a generic and traditional Chinese feature, ideal for replicati
• interior balconies are ideal for an orphanage
• Hakka villages are climate sensitive, outstanding examples of passive cooling
• Hakka farming is an excellent example of best practices in sustainable agriculture




02.00) HOUSING:

01) High Density Housing: Hakka villages generally achieve very high density, equal to
that in many urban areas. This results in the conservation of land for other important
purposes, such as farming for food and income. Some villages provide 33.33 m2/person
(including common areas: courtyard, lounge, kitchen ciculation, etc) or 0.03 per/m2.

03.00) LAND:

01) Intensive Use of Land: maximum land is available, since villages are tight and compact,
with high density and a small ground footprint This also had the added advantage of
reduced infrastructure costs due to shorter distances for centralized utilities.
02) Marginal land: the Hakka were able to survive for hundreds of years using left-over
land in mountains and hillsides, not ideal land in fertile plains
03) Holistic Land Management: they built up their land, rather than mining it perpetually
04) Permaculture: the Hakka practiced sustainable agriculture in several ways

04.00) Cultural & Social Values (protecting culture, history & heritage)

01) strong Community (and identity) :
a) common spaces: courtyard, lounge, living rooms, etc.
b) shared common amenities: well, school, courtyard, gates, security, gardens, etc
c) team work for common good, such as construction, singing while they work
02) Hakka Characteristics:literature has assigned the following nature to the Hakka people:
a) self-sufficient b) resourceful c) hard working d) honest
They are agrarian people.
03) Equalitarian (equal treatment):
a) same size of room for all, young and old
b) no distinction between rich & poor, if there are such distinctions
04) cultural Preservation: these tulou preserve their heritage, history and culture

05.00) Buildings:

01) central Courtyard : useful for a host of activities as their central focus
a) community activities: (i.e. weddings, funerals, baby anniversaries, meetings, etc.)
b) open kitchens: good for daylighting & ventilation
c) common amenities: gardens, greenery (oasis), well
d) daylighting: for backlighting to all rooms
e) social space: people congregate to talk, children play, hand clothes, etc
f) personal grooming: brushing teeth, washing/combing hair, washing face/neck, etc.
02) Gates: 1 or 2 main gates limit access to their communities, ensuring security and
surveillance by them, of all strangers entering their premises.
03) Balconies: access to all their rooms are from open-air hallways on the interior allowing
for daylighting, ventilation, movement and storage. In addition, they foster meeting
others and allow them to watch activities or communicate with others, below
04) Security: 1 main gate allows good surveillance and safety for children
05) Limits to Growth: A major problem of modern urban areas, are their failure to limit
growth. Hakka villages have clearly defined their village boundaries by their tulou walls
06) Internal Expansion: courtyard has accommodated community growth by providing
room to expand, within the safe confines of the defined village
07) Home Schooling: many tulou have “in-house” school spaces or buildings inside or
outside the courtyard, but within their walled confines. These saved both adults and
children costs and time, reduced embodied energy needed to transport children to far
away public schools and increased safety for their children. In areas with many Hakka
villages, children walked to centralized schools, without buses or cars. In this part of
China, children start school at 8:00 AM, came home for 2 hours at lunch and finish
about 3:30 PM.
08) Firewalls: all tulou recognized the dangers of fire inside their villages, especially with
the widespread use of wood interiors. To address this danger, firewalls were designed
and built, to limit possible spread. They varied from a minimum of 4 to about 30.
09) Outbuildings: ancillary facilities such as stables and pens have been integrated either
inside the courtyard or immediately outside, yet within the village walls

06.00) Building Materials & Methods:

01) Materials of Choice: the Hakka used 3 materials of choice:
a) rammed earth from their adjacent rice fields, for their walls & firebreaks
b) stone (granite) from nearby mountain quarries, for all heavy “wear and tear” areas
c) wood (spruce/cedar) for all interior structure and wood work, from adjacent hillsides
02) Rammed Earth: the traditional base materials and ingredients used for rammed earth
wall construction include the following:
a) sand d) wood lintels g) calcium
b) rocks e) red clay h) red sugar
c) bamboo f) yellow clay i) glutenous rice
In addion, floors in many cases were made form the same material, soil cement.
03) Craftsmanship: details found in foundations, drainage systems and wood joinery are
superb, and embody a wealth of knowledge, skill and experience
04) Clay Tiles: all roofs were hip or gable, using clay tiles
05) Flooring (internal & external) :
a) wood was used most frequently b) soil cement and tile for mass and fireproofing

07.00) Ecological practices:

01) Low Demand: the demand for, and consumption of, water and electricity is drastically
lower than average Chinese families
02) the many Rs (reuse, r ecycle, etc) : they recycled:
a) pee for gardens
b) vegetable scraps for pigs
03) Longevity (durability): Hakka buildings are durable, lasting hundreds of years
Durability is key to sustainability.
04) Local Materials (from mountains) :
a) local stones for foundations and granite for doorways
b) wood for structural and finishing, from surrounding mountains
c) they used no nails
05) small Ecological Footprint: was achieved through:
a) conservation d) low embodied energy materials
c) energy-efficiency e) local resources
b) common use & benefit f) minimal environmental impact

08.00) Renewable Energies:

01) Passive Cooling (in summer): highly successful temperature control due to mass
02) optimal Daylighting : saves on artificial electrical backup
03) Mass : is used as :
a) firewall
b) thermal solar energy storage for winter (i.e. bricks in wall)
04) renewable energy: mini hydro (some), not coal, wood for stoves, coal brickettes

09.00) Life Style:

01) conserver lifestyle (very modest/humble lifestyle): an inspiration and target
a) early to bed and early to rise to optimize use of natural daylight & minimum use of
artificial lighting
b) extended comfort index: temperature tolerance, especially in winter 3-5 (10)o C
c) bathing: cold/warm boiled water, pail and scupper

10.00) Cottage Industries:

01) cottage industries & small business :
a) wine making
b) tea making
c) rice cookies

11.00) Architectural & Engineering

01) unified style: Hakka villages share common style, materials and methods. This gave
rise to an uniquely identifiable style and allowed improvements through the years.
02) multi-purpose buildings & spaces:
a) village as common house
b) courtyard as stage: celebrate anniversaries, weddings, and socializing, etc.
c) temple: community centre, receiving room, entertainment centre, ancestral hall
03) wise use of space : for example:
a) courtyards
b) outside kitchens
04) outstanding accoustics:
• one gets a sense of location of the other party anywhere in the tulou, by listening to
their voices, as long tulou was not too large
05) outstanding and generic engineering :
a) foundations
b) buttressing
c) beam sizes
d) thermal mass up to 4th floor (Yijng)
e) water works (drainage)
by using the same engineering practices, they were able to achieve very high costeffectiveness,
reuse past experience and improve their methods over many years
06) distributed storage: storage was distributed throughout the building, not in one place