A home made up of layers of louver-like concrete planters

A roof top garden
ARTICLE Anya Kussler PHOTOGRAPHY Vo Trong Nghia Architects 

In a world where the population is growing at a rapid rate of around 80 million per year, creating smart, sustainable living spaces is of the essence, especially in our increasingly crammed and polluted urban environments.

This attractive Vietnamese tube house, aptly named Stacking Green, is a prime example of how one can make the most of a tiny section in a big way, whilst drawing from nature’s bounty in order to create a dwelling that’s eco-friendly and highly economical, too. 

An open stairs area with plants

Designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects for a young couple and their mother, this prototypical, private home was built in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, five years ago. Whilst the section is a mere four metres wide and twenty metres deep, what’s lacking in grounds, was well made up for by ‘stacking’. Set over four levels, the home features a surprisingly generous floor area of 215 square metres, allowing ample space for a garage and courtyard, open-plan living area and kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, as well as a rooftop garden.

Another key feature of this home is its ecological aspect, which was inspired by the Saigonese penchant for adorning private homes with an abundance of plants, as well as the desire to combat the declining greenery in cities like Ho Chi Minh City due to the furious urban sprawl and commercialism. 

A bedroom with a balcony that is full of green plants

Architect Nguyen Thi Kim Hoan explains: “There is an interesting custom among the people in Ho Chi Minh City – they love to enrich their life with plants and flowers around the streets, and even in the modernised city, people unconsciously wish to substitute the rampant tropical forest.” In a quest to architecturise this custom, both the front and back façades of the Stacking Green home are entirely made up of layers of horizontal, louver-like concrete planters cantilevered from two sidewalls and featuring a plethora of 25 species of plants. The distance between the planters and their height has been adjusted according to the height of the plants, varying from 25cm to 40cm.

Being highly visible from the street, these lush green displays not only contribute to the aesthetic appeal of the property and the biodiversity of the urban surrounds, but they also inspire others to install more greenery into their buildings. 

The outside overview of stacking house with green plants

In a practical sense, both the green façade and the roof top garden protect Stacking Green’s inhabitants from direct sunlight, street noise and pollution. The façade also provides a semi-open screen that helps maintain privacy and provides security in a natural and subtle, non-intrusive manner, which is essential in a city where people live so close to one another.

What’s more, fresh air is allowed to circulate freely throughout the house thanks to its porous façades and two skylights, designed to maximise the wind that enters the building. 

The open-plan room design and absence of unnecessary partitions also contribute to optimum airflow, which Nguyen Thi Kim Hoan says has been instrumental in providing a comfortable living environment, as well as reducing the energy consumption: “Despite our harsh tropical climate, there’s hardly any need to use the air conditioning and the owners’ average electricity charges come to just $25 USD (NZD $34) per month.”

A dining place with big window that lets light in

Speaking of savings, Stacking Green has also factored in an eco-friendly water supply keeping time spent tending to the in-house garden to a minimum: all the plants are watered with rainwater that’s collected in a tank and then pumped into the planters through automatic irrigation pipes.

Last but not least, this multi-level abode is also a cost saver as far as building expenses go. Due to the open-plan design, construction management and choice of materials, it only cost around $480 USD (NZD $655) per square metre to build.

Whilst located in Asia, the Stacking Green concept inspires exciting creative solutions for home builds and renovations in any country, city or culture around the world, especially where lack of space and dwindling green spaces are an issue.

Have a look at some of our Case studies here and discover what you can do with your space. 


This article by Anya Kussler featured on page 100 of Issue 021 of Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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