In the tropical Vietnamese province of Dong Nai, Southeast Asian architecture firm T3 Architects has completed the Hippo Farm Bioclimatic Dormitories, a cost-effective housing structure that uses locally sourced materials and bioclimatic design principles to stay naturally cool and comfortable year-round. A limited budget and a brief that specified low-impact construction led the architects to explore traditional construction methods such as using Vietnamese bulk rice husk with inspect-resistant diatomaceous earth for the roof insulation. The building is also equipped with composting toilets, low-flow plumbing fixtures and rooftop solar heaters to further minimize the project’s environmental footprint. 

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A two-story building with natural materials of bamboo and rice husk.

Catherine and Olivier, the founders of Hippo Farm, commissioned the Bioclimatic Dormitories as an expansion of their three-hectare permaculture farm in Binh Hoa, about an hour away from downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The new construction was designed to follow the example of the existing architecture on site, which was constructed for low environmental impact and built with locally sourced natural materials. Hippo Farm’s existing buildings also feature solar panels, graywater recycling and passive solar design principles.

A two-story building with natural materials of bamboo and rice husk, with a family of five and a dog sitting on the front porch.

As a result, the architects first conducted solar and wind studies to create a site-specific design that would not only take advantage of cooling cross breezes in the summer but also protect against water infiltration by rain during the monsoon season. As a first defense, the steel-framed building (a custom structure assembled near the site) is elevated above the flood zone using repurposed debris from demolished horse boxes. Large timber windows with woven bamboo shutters let in natural ventilation, while long roof overhangs provide shelter from intense sun and rain. 

Related: A green roof naturally cools a bioclimatic mosque in Indonesia

Windows and shutters on the exterior of the building made with natural materials.

Melaleuca timber makes up the handrails and pergolas, while thermo-wood is used for the decking. The walls are built of local bricks covered with natural lime plaster mixed with locally sourced sand for a reddish tint. The landscaping comprises native, low-maintenance species. “This Building is the perfect “manifesto” of a project in line with Happy and Creative Frugality adapted for Tropical country (countryside),” the architects said. 

+ T3 Architects

Images by Herve GOUBAND (Alisa Production)