Hau Woon San is an architect and managing partner at Idea Workshop Sdn Bhd. He studied architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and engineering and architecture at National University of Singapore. Born in Melaka, where historical values are visible in the city’s architecture, Hau decided to specialise in adaptive reuse; and thus far, has been involved in the conversion, restoration, renovation and revitalisation of heritage sites in Malaysia, such as Jonker Street, Heeran Street, Salud Tapas restaurant, Liu Men Boutique Hotel and Melaka’s shophouses on Jalan Tengkara. He has received multiple awards in this field, including both the gold and the silver award of Malaysian Institute of Interior Designers (MIID), Reka Awards and the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) Award.
What is the difference between an adaptive reuse project and a new project in terms of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineering?
Adaptive reuse projects are far more challenging as any mechanical or engineering aspects must be carefully implemented with a great deal of respect to the original structure. In converting a shophouse into an office, for example, we need to introduce modern amenities to the property, such as modern-day toilets and air-conditioning, while maintaining the original feel of the structure. For an exposed roof structure, the design of a central floating ceiling to house air conditioning and lighting should be both practical and aesthetic.
In addition to this, old buildings may use iron pipes that have been damaged by age. The drainage and water system must be checked and properly connected to sewers and fixed if broken. While electricity wiring may still be intact, other elements may not meet the present-day standards so replacement is definitely needed. In tropical country like Malaysia, the advancements in air-conditioning technology has made a significant impact on adaptive reuse projects. A considerable amount of heritage buildings in Melaka are long, terraced shophouses, which presents a challenge when installing outdoor compressor units. Using a Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) air-conditioning system requires fewer compressor units so I would recommend it.