Bangkok developers use sustainable innovation to build “The Great Good Place”


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Courtesy of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation

Sustainability and community connect residents in an innovative urban housing concept

Property developer MQDC is bringing the concept of the sustainable smart city to Thailand with its WHIZDOM 101 complex in urban Bangkok. This mixed-use development balances work, home and a social “third place” to help residents lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. Using Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies to achieve its ambitious goals for sustainability and livability, the award-winning project also inspired local Thai designers, engineers, builders and suppliers to modernise and adopt digital construction processes.

“Sustainovation” as a core value

According to Ruengchaipaiboon, one of MQDC’s core values is to make every project sustainable using innovative technology. It calls this approach “sustainovation” ,” for sustainable innovation. “As developers, we’re well aware that we can create a positive or negative impact on this world,” Ruengchaipaiboon says. “So we ensure that each project has minimal impact on the environment, society and people at large.”

To reduce that net environmental impact, the firm uses fewer construction materials while opting for eco-friendly building materials and methods. The WHIZDOM 101 apartment tower, for example, is strategically positioned to allow for better natural airflow and light and less heat from the sun, increasing energy efficiency. Ruengchaipaiboon says that “if we can position the tower to draw in the natural light and wind, people will use less energy, including less air conditioning".

MQDC used BIM models to analyse the impact of building orientation, design and energy consumption on the microclimate of the WHIZDOM 101 campus. Courtesy of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation.

To attain LEED Gold-certification standards, MQDC implements energy- and resource-saving measures. “We have to reduce energy use by 30 per cent,” Ruengchaipaiboon says. “We also must target to reduce water usage by 40 per cent. We do this by collecting and re-using water on-site and we have the goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 15,000 tonnes every year, which is about 30 per cent, comparable to a project about one-tenth the size of ours.”

MQDC balances environmental concerns with a people-centred design approach that promotes residents’ health and well-being. For example, the apartment feature a ventilation system called ERV or energy recovery ventilation. ERV works while you sleep, drawing carbon dioxide out of the room and replacing it with fresh air from outside. “You get better oxygen while you’re sleeping and you’re rested when you wake up as a result,” Ruengchaipaiboon says.

Green construction made easier with BIM

MQDC has made serious investments in technologies that modernise design and construction and has been working with local designers, engineers, consultants, builders and suppliers to re-engineer those traditional processes. Case in point: At the start of the project six years ago, those stakeholders weren’t equipped for BIM (Building Information Modelling) and were concerned that adopting the process would add more time and cost.

“I’d been using BIM for the past 20 years before coming here to MQDC,” Ruengchaipaiboon says. “I said, okay, we’re not going to use BIM 100 per cent on day one. We asked the team to participate in a few projects using BIM to get started. My goal was that they would see the benefits very quickly and it turned out to be true.”

WHIZDOM 101, shown under construction, is located near a BTS Skytrain line (running through the centre of the photo) and other mass transit to support the project’s goals for quality of life and sustainability. Courtesy of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation.

The team introduced BIM technology gradually, starting with architects and structural engineers using Revit to develop and co-ordinate the designs. This success extended to working with the contractor and supplier during preconstruction, which helped reduce change orders and material cost.

“In the construction industry, construction sites around the world generate about 15 to 30 per cent waste material,” Ruengchaipaiboon says. “By using the BIM process in our development, we can reduce waste by up to 15 per cent, so that saves a lot of energy, saves a lot of material.”

Each step in the construction process has been photographed and implemented into a BIM 360 (US site) model, so all pipes, electric, walls and every position of every part are accounted for. At the close of the project, the BIM as-built model will be handed over to the property managers, so instead of a 2D drawing, they’ll have a 3D model to maintain the site.

Future smart communities

Looking ahead, MQDC is researching a project that will cater to multiple generations. Ruengchaipaiboon says creating mixed-use communities to improve the quality of life is a growing trend for MQDC.

These smart communities could give people more opportunities to spend time outdoors, interacting with nature and their peers. Social interaction is key to a city’s vibrancy and sustainovation is setting the stage for more great, good places across Thailand.

MQDC Executive Vice President Suttha Ruengchaipaiboon (left) and CEO Visit Malaisirirat stand with a model of the WHIZDOM 101 complex. Courtesy of MQDC.

A version of this article ran previously on Redshift

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