To stop climate change and the rise of the planet’s temperature beyond 1.5 degrees, more and more local architects are focusing on creating resilient, safe, sustainable, and long-lasting structures.
“If the climate can change, so can we,” architect Lui Daya-Garcia says to a packed room at Shangri-La at the Fort during the 10th anniversary of the Green Architecture Advocacy of the Philippines (Green AP). “Traditional building design and usual construction practices have been responsible for air and water pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, energy crisis, forest destruction, and waste production.”
But to effect widespread change is always daunting, and takes a consistent and concentrated effort. We’ve spoken to several people within the design industry to pick their brains on making the country green compliant. Here’s a list of standards to keep in mind, the challenges attached to them, and what’s already been done today:
1. Alternative and renewable energy
Since homes and buildings account for 40 percent of global energy consumption, solar panels, wind power, and waste materials should be harnessed as sources of energy. The use of LED lights, efficient equipment, and motion-controlled escalators are a must, architects advised. “The Philippines should develop a technology for solar roofs,” says renewable energy advocate Robert Verzola. He cites the American tech evangelist Elon Musk, who developed solar roof tiles in 2016.
However, “solar panels are now affordable, but batteries that store solar energy are not,” complains architect Nathaniel von Einsidel. Climate Change Commission assistant secretary Rommel Cuenca also thinks that the Energy Department should make renewable energy for all.
Carmelito Tatlonghari, a building physicist, suggests an alternative material. “The use of building integrated photo voltaic (BIPV) glass curtains and panels – which let the light in and the heat out – is good for those who want low cost utilities,” he says.
2. Healthy spaces
According to architects, buildings and residences must have air-filled, healthy, oxygenated, properly lighted, and temperature-controlled spaces. These include social areas such as libraries for culture, indoor gyms, or outdoor gardens for calisthenics, and receiving areas apart from restaurants and coffee shops.
“Buyers are now looking for healthy residences and condos,” real estate broker and dentist Sonia Estabillo says. “These include offices that promote employees’ health, high attendance, ace productivity, and low turnover. Developers are following this demand.”
3. Controlled flood, storm surge, and tsunamis
Due to climate change, structures should be able to withstand flood, storm surge, and tsunamis. For her part, KMV Asia Development Corp.’s Kaydee Velasco says that she has “been preserving old trees and using pervious and grass-crete on pathways” to absorb water.
Other architects say that aerodynamic and hydrodynamic shapes, including perforated facades weaken strong winds: load-bearing walls on coastal areas placed perpendicular, not parallel, to the sea, and do not face wind direction at 90 degrees withstand tsunamis. Living spaces elevated at 50 to 100 meters above sea level beat floods.
Architect Joel Deoacaris, meanwhile, describes his green manifesto as quite radical. “There should be more vegetation than excessive construction now,” he asserts. His master thesis in landscape architecture at the University of the Philippines in 2018 called for the planting of local trees as windbreakers against storm surge. This is especially for those on the shore and around structures in Eastern Leyte, Central Philippines, which were hard-hit by four-grade storm Haiyan in 2013. His students re-designed the estero at Tripa de Ganilla in Malate, near the De La Salle College of St. Benilde, to solve Manila’s torrential flood. Modern constructions have trashed 90 percent of the estero built by Spanish colonials in Manila from the 16th century to the end of 1850.
4. Light-controlled structures
Like medicine, light in buildings and homes should enhance the health of its residents. This is achieved with big windows for natural light. LED fixtures can also imitate natural light and help people perform their best by day. There are mechanisms that can also dim or naturally shut off light to lull people to sleep at night. “Buildings should enhance people’s natural rhythm, and make people healthy, not sick,” says former health secretary, now acupuncturist and herbalist Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan.
5. Oxygenated spaces
Homes, offices, and public places must beat carbon dioxide with proper ventilation. This can be done by creating indoor-outdoor-rooftop and vertical gardens. Carbon footprints must be reduced during construction with dredged waterways, use of eco-friendly, indigenous, recycled, and responsibly sourced building materials. These can be transported by rail and water, and can stem waste and safeguard air, water, and peoples’ health. Dr. Tan adds that oxygen-rich homes, offices, and public places “minimize the onset of asthma, cancer, and other debilitating diseases.”
Velasco, meanwhile, made use of container vans as stalls at Venessa’s Food Park in Laguna as well as recycled wood planks for the interiors of De Ete Expresso. However, the architects interviewed all lamented the absence of an alternative to cement, one of the largest global contributors to carbon dioxide emissions.
6. Safe for everyone
Condo units, conference rooms, display areas, hospitals, pavements, residences, roads, and schools should be safe for all especially children, people with disabilities (PWDs), and seniors. “The Philippine Chinese General Hospital is friendly to PWDs because of ramps and wide doors. To make it more comfortable for the wheelchair-bound, leg space under tables is set at 0.70 meter, accessible counters at 0.70 to 1.20 meter above the floor, and not less than 0.40 meter from room corners. This include barrier-free areas with 1.5 meter diameter for turning wheelchairs, locking and unlocking of leg braces, crutches and other walking aids,” says architect Velasco.
7. Intricate waste management
Waste management must include a sewage treatment plant, facilities that segregate bio-degradable, non-biodegradable, and hazardous waste, and mechanisms that filter water. This should also include ways to repurpose gray water for watering plants and flushing of toilets.
“Double water-pipes for flushing toilets with treated water, and for watering plants with harvested water is one reason why green waste management is expensive,” explains Rchitects, Inc. owner Raul Bumanglad. “If green waste management is done on a municipal level, it can fast-track the use of waste as alternative source of energy, nationwide,” adds Green AP founder Edgar Reformado.
8. Temperature control
In tropical Philippines, temperature is controlled by sun and wind movement. Bedrooms are placed in morning sun-lit northeast areas, and kitchens in cool and windy southwest spaces. Big windows and open spaces are there for natural and passive wind flow. Sun buffers and earth tone colors are in place to prevent heat absorption.
The Philippine Greenbuilding Council (PGBC), a coalition of academe, business, government, and professional organizations, began a rating system in 2009. They called it Buildings for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE), and was a means to measure a buildings’ environmental performance and sustainability. They’ve done this in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management, the Commission on Climate Change, and the World Bank.
“PGBC is not yet lobbying for BERDE to be enacted into law. We want incentives such as technology or tax rebates for properties with good environmental ratings,” says architect Christopher dela Cruz.
Australia’s Green Star, launched in 2003, and the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000 had assessed Philippines’ building industry. The US has not yet required LEED certifications in its building code. In contrast, “Queen of Green” Daya-Garcia says that the “Green AP is calling for the drafting and passage of Philippines’ green building code so that green practices are not just voluntary choices of people who want to stop climate change.”
Photographs courtesy of LDG Architectures
You may also be interested in: