Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Penang Wooden Homes

Early Malay houses in Penang were tiny wooden homes on stilts, a little bit bigger than the Orang Asli huts. Today, they have a brick base and a wooden upper floor. Sometimes the lower floor is walled to create additional space for the family. These homes no longer use atap nipah and most homes use corrugated Addex sheets or some fire-proof roofing materials. The exterior is painted with black oil and the brick is painted chalk white. In the dark, only the painted white bases are seen.

While house owners pay a premium for living in comfortable concrete homes, many Malay people still prefer wooden homes as they are airy and ventilation is better. However, with today's climatic changes and the atmosphere warming up globally, even these wooden homes are affected. It is now very hot in the wooden homes and impossible to live in without fans or air-conditioning. That's how bad the weather has worsened and affected Malay life in these wooden homes. I have not measured the temperatures inside these wooden homes but it was very hot when I was at home in Penang. Sometimes I wonder whether it is the hot weather that has affected the Malay people and caused the rise in kidney problems among the Malays and the rising statistics of those who died of renal complications. There is an urgent need to keep these homes as cool as they were once before despite increasing global temperatures.

I'm not sure what we can do but I think we have less big trees today than before. We have more cars and thus more pollution today than before. We also have more acid rain today than before, which kills the grass and ground cover, and drains the topsoil of nutrients, so nothing much can grow on poor topsoil. There are concrete pavements everywhere and no more dusty foot paths with just grass as before. There are less bushes than before and thick concrete fences fill almost all homes instead. There is more cement in the garden than lawn nowadays. All these make the wooden homes hotter inside and unbearable at noon and at night when heat is trapped in the homes. I have heard inhabitants complained but there is nobody to lend a helping hand or give some answers to the wooden home owners. Instead, we continue to build concrete skyscraper homes. Who needs these sky-high concrete homes? Haven't we given thought to the plights of the wooden home owners? Should we give wooden home owners the onus of "no taxes to be paid" since they are helping to keep the living spaces green and livable? We can raise the tax for concrete homes instead so we drive the message home and stud the dry brains with some good thoughts.

That's me beside my car at my late mother's wooden home. My late grandfather's semi-wooden home is in the background.