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Eco-architecture Takes Root in Thailand, but Growth is Slow

Soontorn Boonyatikarn is a man of the times, throwing around terms like "eco-design" as he enthuses about the charcoal water recycling system at the Bangkok home he designed for his family two years ago.

His Bio-Solar House -- designed not only to be energy efficient but to produce energy -- was inspired by the humble mango tree, echoing the ideas of some of the brightest international names working in eco-architecture today.

"I threw the mango seed into the backyard. Three years later I picked up a mango," Soontorn tells AFP. "The mango tree does not need anything. The mango tree recycles everything, and it survives by the wind and the sun."

Unfortunately for this middle-aged professor of architecture, he is ahead of his time in Thailand, where despite abundant sunshine and a construction boom, talk of solar power and energy-efficient building design is largely rhetoric rather then reality.

But a few "green" projects are taking root.

When Soontorn built his first eco-home 15 years ago, everyone thought he was mad, he says. But in the past 10 years, he has designed about 200 homes, as well as a university and a handful of commercial properties.

"Now the impact is not strong, but it is getting there. With global warming, it is a sign that people have to think about the systems (they use)," he says.

Electricity for the Bio-Solar House is generated by 62.5 square metres (672 square feet) of solar panelling. They provide a surplus of energy, and every month Soontorn sells up to 1,000 baht (29 dollars) of electricity back to the national power grid.

All water is recycled, with the highly-insulated house also collecting dew, rain and condensation from the air conditioning.

Heat from the air conditioning warms the pool and the hot water, while the house is designed to make the most of natural light and air flow -- simple measures that experts say w
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