Ma Vie en Verte: Jason Pomeroy

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Jason Pomeroy is an award winning architect, urban planner and academic at the forefront of the sustainable built environment agenda. Jason’s award – winning projects transcend scale and  discipline and include: the Idea House, the first carbon zero prototype house in South East Asia, and Vision Valley Malaysia, an 80,000 acre Network Garden City extension of Kuala Lumpur.

 Jason also lectures and publishes widely, and is the author of Idea House: Future tropical living today and Skycourts and skygardens: greening the urban habitat.  He tells Eluxe about working out, wigwams and ecological wisdom in this exclusive interview.

lakefront (c) 2014 Pomeroy Studio
One of Pomeroy Studio’s projects

In which ways does nature inspire your architecture work? The natural environment is important to our design works. Temperature,  humidity, sun and wind path, noise, and the natural greenery and biodiversity  of a place are the starting points to our design creations, as are the local  socio-cultural forces that are ripe for reinterpretation and abstraction. These elements allow us us to create award-winning green cities, buildings,  landscapes and interiors.

How do you manage to stay healthy with such a busy travelling schedule? I do cardio work-outs whenever and wherever I can – usually 3  times a week. I had the good fortune of studying martial arts since I was 7  and obtained my black belt at 16. I then actively pursued rugby and rowing at  university level and cross-country running. So, physical activity has always  been a part of my life.

What is the earliest memory you have of being in nature? Playing in my parent’s back garden – a humble, yet lush green space with an  abundance of flora, fauna and a pine tree. It is not only where I got up close  and personal with nature, but where learnt to ride my bike and set up a wigwam tent – early forays into sustainable architecture!

Ho Chi Minh_Street_JP
Jason in Vietnam

What’s the most positive thing you do for the environment in your daily life? Walking to work. I live in Marina bay, which is a 15 walk to my Studio in  Clarke Quay. It allows me to enjoy the riverfront and be in the fresh air  without being cooped up in an air-conditioned car that’s burning noxious  pollutants. I used to walk to my Studio in London also, which also happened  to be on the waterfront.

What’s your greatest eco ‘sin’? I guess it would have to be travelling, which to a greater extent is by plane.  It isn’t the most sustainable, but project commitments require me to do so.  I therefore try and ensure that I capture as much as I can in those trips to  minimise the need to fly, which also means that we can be more efficient in  our project work.

You’ve travelled a lot, but what would be your eco-friendly dream travel  destination? I’ve had the privilege of visiting the most historic cities and their emotive  architectural structures that have spanned time, ranging from the 7th century  ancient city of Varanasi rich in spiritual content, through to the 21st century  city of Tokyo that is a hotbed of technological ingenuity. I’ve also seen the  majestic Palaces of Hue, and the magical ruins of Ayutthaya. But I think  Bhutan will next be on the list, given its people’s happiness index.

Jason in Nanjing

What do you do to carbon offset your travels, if anything? Last year, the studio built houses for the underprivileged for Habitat for  Humanity. We also planted trees as part of N Parks celebration of 50 years  of greening Singapore. I have also established a ‘Pomeroy Studio Design  for a Sustainable Future Award’, which is a financial award and internship  programme to capture the best global students in sustainable design, and  to provide them with a platform for furthering their career. In addition, I’ve  established the ‘Pomeroy Studio Scholarship’, which offers financial support  to MPhil and PhD students pursuing research in sustainable design.

Which spokesperson for the environment do you most admire, and why? I have to say Ken Yeang, the eco-architect for his outspoken ability to  pioneer in the field of sustainable design before it became such an over-used term. He has been my mentor for many years. It started when I did my  undergraduate thesis on his works at Canterbury. When I went to Cambridge  to do my research degree in the role of skycourts and skygardens, he  was my external supervisor. More recently, he wrote the foreword to my  book ‘The Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat’.

Hue_Tomb of Khai Dinh
Tomb of Khai Dinh in Hue, Vietnam

Which eco issues are most important to you?

My Studio is passionate about redefining the concept of sustainability to go  beyond the accepted logic of a triple bottom line. In addition to preserving  the sense of community (the social), the local and global economy (the  economic) and the natural landscape (the environmental), we also believe  in space preservation for the use of society given rapid urbanisation and  the eradication of open space (the spatial). We also believe in cultural  preservation in light of continued globalisation that challenges our own  identity (the cultural). Finally, we believe in the careful use of technology as  opposed to its over subscription to ensure that is integrated with passive  design principles to maximise natural light, natural ventilation and water  preservation (technological).

How do you think further damage to the planet can be stopped?

I think much of the damage has been caused by the previous generations  ignorance during the 19th and 20th centuries, as it is the accepted wisdom  that industrialisation was largely responsible for heightened global warming.  The answer now lies with our children, and thankfully education is changing  perceptions critically and quickly. I believe that the generation today is far  more attuned to the cataclysmic effects of climate change – we will need to  give them the necessary tools, skills sets and empowerment to ensure that  they can act responsibly at stemming climate change and be better decision  makers than us.

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