If you travel through the country, you will see a lot
of Malaysian houses and villages. These villages are called "kampongs" in Bahasa Malaysia. Notice that they are built with stilts below and they
have large windows. This is mainly to keep the building cool and the
stilts elevate the building to keep them away from floods. Kampong house are detached houses and they usually have no fences around them The traditional Malaysian house
serves the housing needs of the majority of people living in rural areas of Malaysia. It was evolved by the Malays over the generations, and
adapted to their own needs, culture, and environment. Basically a timber house with a post and lintel structure raised on
stilts, with wooden, bamboo, or thatched walls and a thatched roof, the house is designed to suit the tropical climate.
Ventilation and solar-control devices, and low thermal capacity building materials are part of the
building heritage. House construction is highly systematized, like a modern prefabrication system, but with a
much higher degree of flexibility and variation. The house components are made on the ground and later assembled
on the building site. A very sophisticated addition system, which allows the house to grow with the needs of the user, is
an advantage for the poor because it allow them to invest and build gradually rather than shouldering one huge initial financial burden.
The traditional Malaysian housing process is highly autonomous, largely controlled
by the user. Guided by building tradition and the village carpenter, the owner-builder designs a house that is uniquely suited to the family's socioeconomic and cultural situation.
Not only does the traditional approach foster a better match of house to user, it keeps the cost down by eliminating the
need for professional intermediaries such as architects or developers.
Self-help and cooperative labour are the resources upon which the owner-builder relies. The traditional Malaysian house has an open interior, promoting good cross
ventilation and lighting and allowing the space to be used for many purposes depending on the season, occasion, or time of day.
Since most activities take place on the floor, the need for furniture is minimal; bedding materials and sleeping mats are rolled up and stored during the day to eliminate the need for separate living and sleeping quarters.
Interior spaces are defined, not by partitions or walls, but rather by changes in floor level; they may be respected or ignored, allowing the house to accommodate larger numbers of people than usual during, for example, feasts.
Thus the traditional Malaysian house exhibits greater versatility and more efficient use of space than does the modern house, where spaces are limited to the specific use determined by furniture and partitions.
The traditional Malaysian house has, over the years, evolved a very efficient addition system that grows according to the needs of its users. The
core unit, or the ibu rumah, is the basic living unit for the small or poor family. The kitchen and toilet are often located on the exterior.
From the ibu rumah, many additions can be made as the family grows bigger or as it acquires the means to build a bigger house.
Additions are usually done in the spare time available during the agricultural or fishing off-seasons.
Building a traditional house is a continual process, often taking months or even years to complete, with the pace of work and quality of construction controlled by the user.
The basic addition possibilities are classified into three different types, but there are infinite variations in sizes and heights, and
various combinations of types and quality according to the needs of the user.
Various traditional houses can be identified in Peninsular Malaysia. They are classified mainly by their
roof shapes. The basic houseforms are the bumbung panjang, bumbung lima, bumbung perak and bumbung limas
The most common houseform is the bumbung panjang, characterised by a long gable roof. The bumbung panjang houses
are the oldest identified in Peninsular Malaysia, many of them being over a hundred years old and still in good condition.
The bumbung panjang is the simplest of the four houseforms. It has a simple gable roof, supported by kingposts. The
most common roofing material used for the bumbung panjang is the attap (a thatch made from nipah and other palm trees found in the local natural vegetation).
The simple bumbung panjang roof-form is most efficient in its ventilation properties. Its simple funnel shape, the
use of ventilation grilles at its gable ends (tebar layar), and the use of ventilation joints allow good ventilation of the roof, space which cools
the house effectively. The roof is simple and easy to construct, and this partly explains the popularity of this houseform among the poorer
villagers and those who build houses themselves. The bumbung panjang, due to its simplicity, is a very efficient roof-form for making additions to
the house. The bumbung lima, bumbung limas and bumbung perak are all houseforms which are not indigenous but developed through foreign
influence. The bumbung lima and bumbung perak houses are believed to have been influenced by colonial Dutch and British houseforms. The bumbung lima
house has a hipped roof, the bumbung perak house has a gambrel roof and the bumbung limas house has a pyramidal roof. Of these three foreign
houseforms used in Malaysian houses, the bumbungperak houseform (also called bumbungpotongan Belanda [Dutch-type] roof in the East Coast) is the most
popular. Some homes, like the one pictured below, decorate with beautiful potted flowers and plants. Homeowners choose Malaysian flowers including orchids and the Malaysian National Flower, the red-coured Hibiscus.