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Tree-friendly architecture

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With the right architect and building design, trees and nature can make life in and around a building more enjoyable. 

house with trees

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EARTH ALERT: Build (if you have to), but don't fell the trees, Meet an award-winning Bangkok architect who specialises in arboreal-friendly structures by Oraya Sutabutr

street treeWhich type of real estate in Bangkok supports the greatest number of big trees? Public parks, temple grounds or private residences.

Or could it be properties long occupied by the diplomatic corps, such as the old Japanese embassy at the intersection of Asoke and New Phetchaburi Roads which has now been sold and is slated as the site of yet another mammoth commercial development.

There are several large embassy compounds and ambassadorial residences on Witthayu and Ratchadamri Roads where huge rain trees still stand tall, spreading their branches to provide much needed relief to passers-by from the burning sun. In fact, these two streets are among the few left in the city which still boast big shade trees. Remarkably, these and other mature trees which have survived in the Phloenchit area may all owe their existence to a single man: the nature-loving entrepreneur Lert Sreshthaputa (aka Nai Lert), grandfather of the current owner of Swissotel Nai Lert Park.

News of the new "development" planned for the site of the former Japanese embassy got me wondering whether it's ever possible to build on a space containing lots of old trees without cutting them all down.

....Then I began to wonder if Bangkok had any architects who specialise in tree-friendly structures and I was referred to a man named Robert Boughey...

...Since establishing his architectural practice in Bangkok in 1973, Boughey has been at the forefront of the local architectural scene, designing some of the city's most famous landmarks...It should be in everyone's interest, Boughey noted, to build structures that last for a long time, save energy and avoid disturbing the integrity of the plot and its surroundings

Each site where you're going to build has its history and identity and, most of the time, has been part of a living community. So architects should respect that and design a building that doesn't change the original community or environment so much.

He was quick to point out that he's not opposed to development or big buildings per se, but that he is against irresponsibility and lack of respect for the natural environment. He believes that a tree gets to be very big because it happens to have been planted in a place that best suits its nature. Even if they are located in busy, built-up areas, these venerable old trees are often invaluable habitats, home to a host of birds, squirrels and other wildlife, he noted, adding, "It only makes sense to try to keep it that way if you can."

...Architects need to take a firm stance from the very beginning, Boughey asserts; they need to show the client how the integrity of the original site can be maintained and how to limit the effects construction work will have on natural elements like tree root systems.

For more than 30 years Boughey has stuck to that design philosophy, as evidenced by various high-profile buildings around town...

stree treeAt both the Alma Link and Thai-Obayashi building sites, rain trees planted next to public footpaths had extended over sections of the property. At both projects, the architects and developers were in full agreement that the trees needed to be protected. In the former case, the new structure was set back far enough from the road to allow trees to continue growing unhindered. The set-back was cleverly designed as a driveway running parallel to the footpath over which tree branches could extend and provide shade. This feature allows passengers to be dropped off from cars right in front of building while causing no obstruction to traffic passing on the public road.

On the plot of ground earmarked for the Thai-Obayashi HQ there were both rain trees and tabebuia (chompoo pantip, in Thai). In this case, the strip of land designated for the set-back was transformed into a lovely traditional Japanese garden to complement the Japanese-Thai cooperative efforts that the new building was being designed to house. The rain tree saved from destruction now provides shade for both the footpath and the ornamental garden.

So whether you're waiting for a bus at street level, gazing down from the open-air platforms of BTS Ratchadamri or looking out the window as you enjoy a meal at the Japanese restaurant inside the building, you can rest your eyes on the soothing sight of a garden with large trees, an increasingly rare vista in our capital these days.

In Boughey's opinion, it would be a big step forward if Thailand were to adopt something equivalent to US Green Building Council certification - dubbed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) - to reward the owners of buildings who follow environmentally sound practices...


Readers of the Bangkok Post are invited to take part in the Bangkok Big Trees Campaign by voting (visit for your favourite tree in the city. Votes can be submitted until April 30.

(Source: Bangkok Post, EARTH ALERT, Build (if you have to), but don't fell the trees, Meet an award-winning Bangkok architect who specialises in arboreal-friendly structures, 28/04/2011, Oraya Sutabutr, link

Tree and Architecture Vocabulary

US Green Building Council - a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built, and operated (See Wikipedia)
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) - an internationally recognized green building certification system (See Wikipedia)
- an official process that provides proof that certain standards have been met after tests and inspection, an official document (certificate) to prove that these standards have been met การรับรองคุณภาพ

rain trees - (See Wikipedia)
tabebuia - a type of tree with many species, Thai: chompoo pantip (See Wikipedia)
tree root systems - the part of a tree that extends into the ground , used for extracting nutrients and water from the soil (See Wikipedia and Google Images)

mature - fully grown เติบโตเต็มที่
mature trees - fully grown trees

architect - someone whose job is to design buildings สถาปนิก
architecture - the study and highly skilled job of designing buildings and homes (See Wikipedia)
architectural practice - the activity of designing homes and buildings for people or companies (done by architects as a business)
local architectural scene - all the architects and architectural firms in a city or area and the buildings and homes they design

arboreal - related to trees
real estate - land and the buildings, homes and other structures built on the land

grounds - the area surrounding a building บริเวณ,เขต,สถานที่
compound -
an area with buildings or a home with a wall or fence that restricts entry

private residences - homes that families and individuals live in

prime - main or most important ที่สำคัญที่สุด
prime business areas - the most important and main business areas of a city

occupied - when a place or building (or other real estate) has people in it, using it for living or for business

intersection - a place where roads, lines, etc., join or cross each other สี่แยก
site - a place where something is located or happened สถานที่
mammoth - very big

commercial - for business purposes
commercial development - a building project for businesses (examples: large shopping center, hotel, office building, etc)  

passers-by - people who are walking by or walking past a place (not going to that place)
landmark - an important place

integrity - 1. being complete or whole, with all parts blending into a unified whole; 2. behaving according to moral principles
plot - a piece of land used for a particular purpose
disturbing the integrity of the plot - changing the land completely for one's own purposes (destroying all natural features)
surroundings - the area around something บริเวณโดยรอบ

community - all the people who live in a place and know each other (haev something in common and are friends) ชุมชน
lack - does not have ขาดแคลน
respect - to accept the importance of something (that needs to be treated as important) and not interfere or disturb it
lack of respect - something not given respect (that should be respected)

- found in nature (not made in a factory by humans) ตามธรรมชาติ
environment - the natural world of land, sea, plants, and animals
natural environment - all the things in an area that are not made by man (such as trees, lakes, rivers, streams, beaches, volcanoes, etc)
lack of respect for the natural environment - not accepting that the environment is important and destroying it (example: cutting down a big tree that has taken 100 years to grow)

habitat -
a kind of place or area where certain plants and animals commonly live (example: this oak only grows in the dry habitat of northern California)
host of birds - many birds
squirrel - a small animal with a long tail that lives in trees and eats nuts (See Wikipedia)
- animals living in the jungle

construction - the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง

footpath - sidewalk, the cement area on the side of the road for people to walk on (See Wikipedia)
property -  land that a person owns (usually with a fence around it, to make ownership clear)

set back X from Y (verb) - X is located away from Y (example: the home was set back from the from the road a bit)
set-back (noun) - the locating of some structure (building, home) away from the road

X houses Y -  X is located inside of Y
destruction - when something is destroyed การทำลาย, ภาวะที่ถูกทำลาย
open-air platforms - a place that people can stand while waiting for the train that has no roof over it

gazing - looking for a long period of time
soothing - making you feel calm มีลักษณะ (ปลอบ,ปลอบโยน,ปลอบขวัญ,ประโลมใจ,ทำให้บรรเทา,ลด)
vista - a view, especially a splendid view from a high position ทัศนียภาพ
capital - the city in the country that is the center for government

cleverly designed - designed in a very smart way

parallel - when the distance between two lines, etc. is the same all along their length ขนาน
running parallel to - located next to each other over a long distance
obstruction - some object that prevents movement through a place
traffic - the number traveling to a place during a period of time (people, aircraft, ships, trains, cars, trucks, etc.) ความหนาแน่นของจำนวนคน หรือยานพาหนะในช่วงเวลาใดช่วงเวลาหนึ่ง

strip of land - a long piece of land 

- choose for a special purpose ที่ได้รับการแต่งตั้ง ถูกกำหนด (example: the area was designated as residential only in the city plan)

practices - ways of doing commonly repeated tasks
sound practices - ways of doing things that are correct (that work and won't end in problems or failure)
environmentally sound practices - ways of doing things that do not harm the environment (do not pollute or waste natural resources)

General Vocabulary

award - a prize or a sum of money that is given to someone following an official decision รางวัล
supports - provide help to

diplomatic (adjective) - relating to relations between countries เกี่ยวกับการทูต
diplomat (noun) - a person who represents a country in foreign countries
diplomatic corps - all the diplomats who represent a country abroad (in other countries)

embassy - a group of officials who represent their government in a foreign country สถานทูต
slated as... - people are planning to use it as...

(noun) - the official representative of one country at the capital of another country
(adjective) - related to ambassadors

provide - to give someone something that they want or need
relief - help or assistance for those in need; help for improving a bad physical condition or a bad situation การผ่อนคลาย, การบรรเทา

boast -
have something nice (something that you would proudly tell other people about = boast)
survived - continued to live or exist รอดมาได้

- to be required to give someone money for something you have bought or money that you have borrowed from them
owe their existence to Y - continue to live and exist because of Y
owe X to Y -
have X because of Y

- only one
entrepreneur - someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves risks นักลงทุนทางการเงิน
current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน

got me wondering -
started me thinking about something
specialise - to concentrate on a particular subject or active มีความชำนาญเป็นพิเศษ
referred to - told to contact for some special purpose (to get information, for example)

at the forefront of - doing the most advanced and innovative work in an area
in everyone's interest - will benefit everyone
identity - what something is or who someone is
invaluable -
very valuable (so valuable that a price tag cannot be put on it)

per se - considered alone by itself (not with other things, factors or aspects)
irresponsibility - doing things without thinking of the possible result of your actions ความไร้สำนึกในหน้าที่ความรับผิดชอบ

stance - your attitude, views or opinion about an issue ความเห็น จุดยืน
take a firm stance - have a clear opinion that they do not change (an expert that might change the way that things are done)

- a customer or someone who receives services ลูกค้า
maintained - kept at the same level (not allowed to increase or decrease)

limit effects -
control the negative things that happen as a result of some action (and try to make them as small as possible)

X as evidenced by Y - Y helps show and prove that X is true
high-profile - very visible to the general public (many people see it and are thinking about it)
in full agreement - they all agree about this

hinder (verb) - to prevent someone from doing something, to control or limit the actions of someone
(adjective) - not controlled or limited in any way

extend - to include something more ยืดออกไป ขยายออกไป
feature - a part of something (that makes it different or comparable to other things)

drop off -
let a person out of the car at the place they are going to (and then driver continues on to the place they are going to)

earmarked -to be used for a special purpose or programme
HQ - headquarters (the central place or office from which a business or organizationis run and managed)

- changed
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
cooperative - joint; done together with one or more people or groups ความร่วมมือกัน
efforts - the work done towards achieving some goal; people trying to accomplish something, achieve a goal ความพยายาม

- not happening very often หาได้ยาก, เกิดขึ้นได้ยาก
a big step forward - some action taken that makes progress (a big move toward achieving goals)
adopt - to accept or to start using something new นำมาใช้
equivalent - the same as เท่าเทียมกันกับ

dubbed - given a name ตั้งฉายา, ตั้งชื่อเล่นให้
reward - something given in exchange for good behaviour or good work, etc รางวัล

take part in -
join in an activity with other people
submitted - formally given to someone so they can make a decision about it ยื่นเอกสารเพื่อการพิจารณา

- sets or groups of people องค์ประกอบ

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