THE environment will not be an afterthought in the design and construction of the Klang Valley MRT. Architectural features that help in saving energy will be the station roof of the elevated stations, which will have extended overhang to significantly reduce direct sunlight and incoming rain. The roofs will also be well insulated to minimise heat transmission.
- Design specifications emphasise the use of durable and low-maintenance building materials. For example, the station facade will employ glass and aluminium as primary materials for minimum maintenance. High performance polyvinylidene difluoride coating (PVDF) will be used to replace conventional surface paint. PVDF-coating (on aluminium cladding) gives a similar paint-life effect but lasts up to 20 years without fading as it is highly resistant to heat, chemicals and dirt build-up.
- Energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights will be installed at the stations’ concourse and platforms, and energy-saving T5 fluorescent will be used in the plant room/working areas. The average lifespan of the LEDs (about five years) and T5 fluorescent (about three years) is set to decrease maintenance costs.
- The train traction power system is designed to accept regenerated electricity as trains decelerate (brake) and feed it into the system to power other trains that are accelerating, and is a key feature that helps minimise power consumption of the MRT.
- Rain water will be harvested for toilet use where space allows, at certain elevated stations. The syphonic method for roof drainage will be used as this facilitates water storage and easy maintenance of gutters. In the lavatories, dual-flush cisterns and self-closing taps will be standard fittings.
- It is quite possible that the world’s strictest noise limits have been imposed on KVMRT. “This is far stricter than the one for the LRT. In our case, we are designing a system that integrates the sound barriers right from the start, unlike in other projects where the barriers are put in only after public complaints,” said Glenn Gittoes, KVMRT’s engineering director.
- Approximately 20% of the elevated lines (around 9km) will have noise barriers of various configurations and height, with a few selected locations having full enclosures.
- “The noise limits imposed are so stringent that noise absorbent material that is several centimetres thick will be used to line the enclosures. These will be used in areas where the track runs close to some sensitive buildings, like hospitals and so on,” said Gittoes.
- Concept architect Serina Hijjas will also be looking at the aesthetical aspects of the barriers, to ensure that they blend in harmoniously with the look of the station and surroundings. “There is no point having nice-looking stations but horrible-looking barriers along the line,” added Gittoes.
- About 20 of the 24 elevated stations will be the first ever train stations here to undergo certification for the Green Building Index handed out by the Malaysian Green Building Confederation (mgbc.org.my). However, as GBIs are intended for residential or office buildings, some of the existing evaluation criteria has to be tweaked to accommodate train stations, but building it in the greenest way possible remains a core feature of the KVMRT.
Malaysia Looks to Local Talents and Vernacular Architecture to Design Public Transit System
Building a public transit system is never something that is taken lightly. A project of such scale, and one that will foreseeably outlive its original era, demands close scrutiny at every level. But in these sporadic building booms, architecture too often slips into the sidelines and gives way to hardheaded engineering. City streets become hopelessly pockmarked with bland bus shelters and train stations. At the other end of the spectrum, international architects are brought in to colonize entire geographies with their imported aesthetics. As Malaysia proceeds with its largest public procurement project to date, the 51-kilometer Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) line, the country is taking careful measures to avoid the pitfalls of infrastructural design.
To our surprise, neither Norman Foster nor his partners will be making trips to the Southeast Asian country, at least not for the KVMRT. Malaysia’s Land Transport Commission and MRT Corporation has tapped local Malaysian firm Hijjas Kasturi Associates (HKA) to design the schematic look for the country’s upcoming urban overhaul. Of the 31 stations that make the new railway, 24 will be above ground, making the infrastructure a especially visible element of Malaysia’s future landscape. As director of HKA Serina Hijjas told national news outlet The Star, the task at hand was explicit: the firm was to create a distinctly Malaysian identity for the new transit line, turning the 24 above-ground stations into prominent emblems of Malaysia’s built heritage.
To do this, HKA looked to the country’s vernacular architecture, taking the native form of thewakaf as the seed for their designs. The wakaf, an open-air pavilion traditionally made of wood, has long served as a ubiquitous rest stop for travellers looking to escape the country’s tropical heat. The structure consists of a low platform for sitting or lying down and columns that support a dramatic hipped gable roof. Without straying far from its original function, the wakafbecame the perfect architectural metaphor for Malaysia’s new train stations.
Google Sketch-Up rendering of a typical Malaysian wakaf.
For the state-of-the-art KMVRT, Hijjas and her team envisioned 120-meter long stations with large overhanging roofs sitting atop open, airy spaces and load-bearing supports clad in bronze to approximate the color of wood. “The design equates rail stations to sheltered pavilions along on elevated rail,” explained Hijjas to The Star. “It will not be confused with Dubai or Hong Kong. It will be distinctly Malaysian, and it has to have clarity.” Coincidentally, of the three concepts HKA presented to officials, the wakaf proposal offered the best value for the lowest cost, making it a universal preference among design panelists.
“There are lots of foreign architects with ample experience in designing train stations,” said Glen Gittoes, the leading engineering director for the project. “But having someone who understands Malaysian ideals and concepts is important, and hence, having a Malaysian do the job is important.” With HijjasKasturi Associates on board, there is hope that the KMVRT will not only connect Sungai Buloh with Kuala Lumpur and Kajang but also connect generations of Malays to their country’s bright future and its culturally rich past.
[All images via the Malaysian MRT Corporation]
– Kelly Chan