• Resilient cities of the future: Revolutionary ideas for adaptive design

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    THE world temperature is about to rise by one degree Celsius in a few years time, and at present, according to the latest global land temperature index of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), temperature has already risen by .75 degree Celsius.

    Our world ecology is changing and the dynamics of our climate, especially the strength and frequency of the storms and typhoons, have exceeded the average of twenty years ago. Typhoon Yolanda as a category five typhoon and the amount of water brought about by typhoon Ondoy back in 2009 will be the new normal for this generation. I believe it is time for the government and the citizens of this country to realize that climate change is not an overreaction, but a realistic one. Tropical countries like the Philippines, listed as part of the top five countries affected by typhoons, will mostly feel the impact of climate change.

    It is good that the government has recently laid out a national flood program, but on the other hand it would be accomplished only by 2030, provided that it will not be delayed or be marred with other issues. So the question is, do we idly observe and continue with our present practices in between that time frame, or would we actively change how we view our buildings and our cities?

    Revolutionary ideas for adaptive design
    Rethinking waterfront development. In a macro scale, we should rethink how to appreciate our natural catch basins: our rivers and esteros. The current practice of treating our waterways as “back of the house”, as in the case with most developments along our rivers here in Metro Manila, encourages the indiscriminate disposal of untreated industrial and domestic waste into the river. More than trash, development along the water systems has narrowed it and consequently affects its capacity to hold more water. During the downpour of Ondoy, the rivers of Pasig, Marikina, and San Juan were at full capacity. The first persons who were affected by the heavy rains are those who lived and built their homes along the waterways.

    Before any redevelopment could happen in reviving our waterfronts, the government should strictly enforce the existing laws regarding easements, buffer zones and non-buildable areas along the river. Through proper enforcement, various developments can be made possible. Such as being able to create pedestrian walkways and recreational parks, and being able to revive our age old river transport system, among others. The biggest impact of the enforcement of easements, however, are putting people out of danger during extreme flooding.

    Interconnectivity. Related to the frequency of flooding, we should also re-think and re-imagine how we should design our pedestrian walkways. In 2007, we proposed for the San Juan city government that buildings should have an integrated skywalk system, or better known as an elevated walkway system. Whether we like it or not, extreme flooding will be more frequent and it will put a damper on the movement of the citizens. Instead of having to walk through hip deep of water, buildings, especially along major roads, should have a common elevated walkway.

    Moreover, end points of these walkways should be connected to terminals of the mass transit stations such as the LRT. This can allow a seamless flow of pedestrians, unaffected by the flooding below.

    Rethinking mass transportation is actually crucial in becoming a city that is resilient to calamity change. One of the biggest problems that our cities face apart from extreme traffic congestion is that, during downpours of rain, our streets are rendered inaccessible by cars as well. One of the main reasons is that roads are not properly designed and built. The solution to this problem has been proposed since 1977 in the MMETROPLAN. One of its proposals includes designing pedestrian-oriented city that has eight LRT lines and a well laid out Bus/Jeepney rapid transit.

    Climate-proof homes. Architects and Engineers should re-assess how much wind speed the roofs of homes should withstand. Houses along coastlines should have strict implementation of the building code because they are the most susceptible to the impact of storms and typhoons.

    A good concept that could be explored is a modern version of houses on stilts. Instead of worrying when flashfloods would suddenly swoop down on the ground floor, the design of the houses should be ready for such occurrences.

    Climate change will affect how we live no matter we like it or not, and it will not wait for us to become ready. We should accept it; no matter how difficult it is, even if it means re-planning, re-designing, and re-building significant infrastructures in our city. At the end of the day, quality and safety of our lives, especially the lives of our loved ones, are more important than the cost.

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