Low-Income Housing

High-rise homes have always been part of modern Malaysia’s urban landscape, where they form part of a solution to the problems of housing the urban poor. One of the most common is the Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) or People’s Housing Program development by the government.   Some of the earliest high-rise housing developments in the country are the Rifle Range flats in Penang and the Jalan Pekeliling Flats along Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur, where industrialised or prefabricated building systems were used under the initiative by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

High-rise residential towers, often soaring as high as 20 stories, permit packing as many units of flats in a tight urban site as possible. The small budgets of low-income housing with which they are built often mean that each flat is small and cramped with poor quality ventilation and daylighting. The PPR flat is a standard 700 square feet for both non-disabled and disabled occupants, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open-plan living, dining and kitchen. This same flat size is offered to low-income groups regardless of household size and composition. In order to pack the flats into high-density developments, they are arranged around very tall light wells and dark corridors, which also function as ventilation channels for the ‘back rooms’ such as the kitchen, bathroom, and utility areas. These channels perform poorly in encouraging any cross-ventilation within the living units.  

Our proposed DeLight Homes project looks at how low-income homes can be improved through design to make them more comfortable to live in and sustainable to build. The proposal considers several ‘humanising qualities’, which include higher space standards, open and bright spaces that encourage cross ventilation across the house, and outdoor space for drying clothes by having windows that stretches up to ceiling level, taller ceiling, and views out. Other qualities the proposal seeks centres around privacy and safety, where each home is provided with private defensible space outside one’s door and arranged around to overlook public and play areas to increase natural surveillance for security.

The flats in the DeLight Homes project are designed in modular units that could be mixed and matched to form different-sized flat units to meet the requirements of occupants and their household sizes and demographics. Five modules with a similar width can be combined to create a series of flats containing 1, 2, 3 or 4 beds, with varying sizes of living, dining, and kitchen areas. Each module will be prefabricated using industrialised building systems as a way for developments to be built at lower costs but simultaneously capable of offering a variety of flat types to low-income urban households.  

Studies of how the modules should be arranged and stacked in high-density high-rise volumes and their potential configurations are carried out. The aim is to explore the best volumetric arrangement for each flat to receive adequate natural daylight, achieve high ventilation rates in its living spaces, and provide adequate outdoor social spaces such as pocket parks, safe children’s play areas, and communal gatherings.

This is a research project carried out in collaboration with Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM) a subsidiary of Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB)