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Shelter@Rainforest, Sabah State, Borneo, Malaysia by Marra + Yeh architects

AR House 2012 Commended: Demonstrating an elegant and economic use of local materials, this house in the Borneo rainforest reinterprets vernacular precedents


Commissioned by a forestry company that sustainably harvests and manages 100,000 hectares of tropical rainforest, this house provides accommodation for the company manager, his family and visitors. Elevated on stilts, the house is arranged as two mirrored halves linked by an entry ‘dog run’ and a long veranda overlooking the forest landscape.

Its form reflects the local vernacular longhouses, with their frugal timber structures, as well as the imperative to live simply and self sufficiently. The house is low cost (£120 per sqm) and autonomous (exploiting rainwater collection, biogas units and electricity from solar panels), while large overhangs and the veranda filter light and temper heat gain.

Locally harvested and milled timber is the main building material, limited to just two section sizes. This addresses the reality of scarce resources, increasing the yield per tree, as well as the logistics of processing and construction. Locally fabricated plywood is used as a diaphragm for walls and floors.The jury found it a highly convincing project, emblematic of craft, care and environmental stewardship.


First floor plan



An exploded projection shows the simple construction using only two timber section sizes, 100 x 50mm and 50 x 50mm


The house creates little impact on the landsape, visually and environmentally


Cross section


Architect: Marra + Yeh Architects

Roof: BlueScope Lysaght

Lighting: Philips

Exterior protection: Dulux Solarscreen

Hardware: PC Henderson

Photographs: Brett Boardman




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