Lightweight tropical: Reconnecting construction technologies with thermal comfort

  • YEAR
    O’Brien, Dr. David
    2006 Conference Papers
    Construction and materials


ABSTRACT: The processes of modernization and globalization unfolding throughout South-East Asia
reveal a concerted push to use masonry construction technologies in the housing market. This is in
part due to desires to engage with imported ideologies but pragmatic issues such as the effects of
deforestation make this trend all the more apparent. This paper critiques the use of masonry
construction technologies in tropical climates and addresses relationships between construction
technology and thermal comfort. Users have typically described non air-conditioned masonry houses
as hotter than traditional lightweight timber houses during the day and difficult to cool – particularly at
night. However existing literature suggests that masonry houses would be cooler than lightweight
houses in the early morning due to time lag effects. This paper introduces a pilot study that uses
comparative temperature measurements to evaluate these claims. It challenges the claims made in the
literature by revealing that lightweight timber houses perform more effectively than masonry houses
throughout both the day and night with the highest difference being in the hours when the house is
used for sleeping. It goes on to argue the case for alternate lightweight construction materials with
similar properties to timber and outlines the advantages of housing systems based on fibre-cement
wall panels.


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