Architecture into the New World: Climate change


Buildings should be designed for at least one hundred years. (Our firm, Palafox Architecture is currently designing nine buildings good for a thousand years in Kathmandu, Nepal.) In terms of life cycle cost, the next 97 years are savings after the first years three years of investment on green and sustainable design, building construction and building materials.

In building a sustainable structure for at least one hundred years, the biggest challenge is that it should withstand the impact of climate change. It will happen whether we accept it or not. The Philippines, having the third longest coastline in the world is both an amenity and advantage but also a challenge to address rising sea levels due to climate change. There is a need to develop plans to be able to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change.

Mitigation vs adaptation
Mitigation is both cost intensive and time intensive because of the massive infrastructure needed. An example of mitigation is the building of water pumps, coastal barriers, and bigger pipes for sewage. In the case of Metro Manila, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways, it will take fifteen more years to finish the flood control plan. It will be finished by 2030 provided that the project will roll in schedule.

But, of course, waiting for 2030 is long. Nature does not sit still, and the negative impacts of climate change such as stronger storms and the rising of seawater level will happen. There is a need for a more active measure for the citizens to be able to adapt to this change.

We were recently given the opportunity to develop the integrated tourism master plan of San Vicente, Palawan. And one of the first priorities we had in mind was that the area should be ready to withstand a Yolanda like storm surge that was experienced in Leyte. In short, our designs can potentially save tens of thousands of lives. And today it is considered as a model city for coastal development. San Vicente is the first provincial town in the Philippines to have a horizontal set back of 50 meters and have a vertical easement of four meters. Meaning no habitable area should be constructed within the easements, even hotels, apartments, or any form of living quarters. Based on studies, the possible maximum storm surge that may occur is four meters high, so habitable areas should be higher than it.

We also proposed that the design of the houses adopt the floating community concept in Kapung Ayer (water villages) in Brunei, where homes are interconnected through elevated walkways 1-3 meters above water level. We also proposed of going back to the basics of stilt design, taking inspiration from our native bahay kubo to prevent flood waters entering the home. The lower levels or the “silong” creates an open urban space for storage or other activities.

On the other hand, we were also awarded in Berlin for our Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning ordinance for San Juan City. In preparation for stronger typhoons, we proposed that the city be integrated by a multi-level elevated walkway. The highest level may be used to accommodate future integrated monorails.

Sustainable design is good business sense
It saves a lot of money, both in liquidity and dvalue appreciation of land assets. At the birth of my firm, the first project I did was the Rockwell business center in Makati. It used to be a sight of a power plant, which in technical jargon we call “Brownfield.” The principles that we wanted to apply followed these assumptions: open parks increases pedestrian traffic and land value, and compact-mixed use buildings (ground floor for commercial, mid-level for offices, and the upper floor for residential) decreases travel time.

Rockwell is 49 percent open space and 51 percent saleable. Today this pedestrian friendly urban development is one of the healthiest, safest, and premier places in the metropolis. If you live there, it will not take you more than five minute walk to go to your destination (shopping, dining, worship, healthcare, education, and wellness, etc. ). In a bigger context, most people who work in Makati lives in Quezon City and as far as Laguna. These workers wastes two hours or more in the road. The amount vehicles needed to transport these people in unbelievable, no wonder EDSA is a standstill, and are spilling over to other parts of the city. The amount of carbon emissions is tremendous.

The macro effect of poor design is also the rising cost of operations such as port congestions, delay of arrival of goods, and less productive movement of people. We lose billions of pesos, and hours of precious time. To be able to decrease carbon emissions, cities should be able to design affordable homes nearer work areas; development an organized mass-engaged traffic system; and implement a higher requirement for parks and open spaces.

Mission of Palafox Architecure and Palafox Associates
In all of our architecture and planning designs, we keep in mind that though many of the projects are built for corporate objectives, should ultimately be geared toward a more sustainable future. We also pledged that by 2030, most of our designs will have zero carbon emissions

“We only borrow the environment from the future generation.”


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