Green Urbanism

GREEN urbanism is the principle of creating communities beneficial to people’s health and the environment. It is a key solution to modern-day sustainability issues, which cities all over the world are facing. Vancouver, Singapore, Boston, Portland, and Scandinavian cities are innovating creative solutions to address problems of waste management, housing affordability, urban transport, and biodiversity conservation and transforming them into opportunities for development. In the 1980s, Portland, Oregon imposed a legally binding “growth boundary” to protect forests and farms from urban sprawl. Solar cities and districts in Austria and Germany represent a milestone in sustainable urban development when they successfully reduced their carbon emissions. In 2015, the Swedish city of Växjö became entirely independent from fossil fuels. The industrial park in Kalundborg, Denmark is often cited as a model for industrial ecology, and the city of Waitakere in Auckland, New Zealand is the first ever eco-city in the world.

In the Philippines, we are familiar with how rapid urbanization presents several social and environmental challenges. Our cities are congested with traffic and easily inundated, and millions of people continue to suffer from lack of affordable housing. Natural calamities and climate change — often the consequences of the abuse of natural resources — exacerbate urban management problems. Our profession as architects and urban planners gives us opportunities to directly enhance people’s quality of life by designing and implementing preventive measures that lessen the negative impacts of natural and man-made calamities. To do this, we must be aware of and integrate the three pillars of green urbanism in city planning: energy and materials, water and biodiversity, and urban planning and transport to improve life in the city.

In a nutshell, the triple zero bottom line — zero fossil fuel energy use, zero waste, and zero emissions — is key to a sustainable community. With this in mind, we can explore the possibilities of designing environments that integrate the principles of green urbanism. I will briefly comment on a list of 15 principles of green urbanism taken from the book of Dr. Steffen Lehmann entitled The Principles of Green Urbanism: Transforming the City for Sustainability (2010). As I see it, we should consider the following trends for planning and designing a sustainable city:

• Study the site’s climate and context by identifying opportunities through the city’s topography, landscape, and microclimate, which can reduce the environmental footprint.

• Using renewable energy for zero carbon emission means transforming the city into a self-sufficient, on-site energy producer that uses decentralized district energy systems.

• A zero-waste city establishes waste management systems that transform waste into energy.

• Reduce water consumption, find more efficient uses for water resources, and ensure good water quality and the protection of aquatic habitats.

• Providing access to public parks, gardens, and public spaces with opportunities for leisure and recreation are essential components of a healthy city.

• With regard to sustainable transport and good public space, compact and polycentric cities enable urban mobility and safety. How can we get people out of their cars to walk, cycle, and use public transport?

• Advocate green manufacturing and an economy of means. Process-integrated technologies reduce waste. It is more environment-friendly to use lightweight structures, enclosures, and local materials requiring minimal transport.

• Mixed-use typologies, green transit-oriented developments, and vertical infrastructure promote a highly interconnected and sustainable community.

• Green buildings and districts use passive design principles and may offer solar access designed with green architectural strategies.

• Land use development patterns are key to sustainability. Generally, mixed-use and mixed-income cities deliver more social sustainability and social inclusion.

• Encourage local gardening and farm-to-table practices.

• Promote locally owned business that support creativity and cultural development to preserve cultural heritage, identity, and sense of place.

• Improvement of urban governance, leadership, and best practices in the Philippine setting are largely determined by the strength of political will.

• Educate citizens about waste recycling, water efficiency, and sustainable behavior. Changes in people’s attitude and personal lifestyles are necessary. In addition, transform the city to a hub of learning institutions such galleries, libraries and, museums where knowledge can be shared.

There are specific sustainability strategies for cities in developing countries and low-cost solutions appropriate for each region. Examples of these strategies are: coordination of low-cost building and mass housing projects with poverty reduction programs; training local government units to empower communities; creation of new jobs and diversification of job structures; and combating climate change, to name a few.

Build Better Berde is the metropolitan vision for creating an accessible, sustainable, diverse, and prosperous Metropolitan Davao. In the Urban Master Plan of Metro Davao, we at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group integrated the principles of green urbanism to initiate the transformation of the city into a platform through which everyone can participate in developing better living and working conditions. Metro Davao will be walkable, vibrant, and have open spaces for everyone’s well-being and enjoyment. The metropolis was also designed to support business and economic opportunities without sacrificing the quality of the environment. To achieve more sustainable cities, architects and urban planners need to understand and apply the core principles of green urbanism in a systematic and adaptive way, tailored to the context of the project and to the site’s constraints and opportunities. It boils down to identifying and implementing the principles of a healthy community.

Little by little, promising signs of green urbanism have begun in cities and provinces all over the Philippines. In many ways, all of us can be contributors to greener and more sustainable communities. Let us continue to hope that more leaders and fellow Filipinos will appeal for greener measures in planning buildings and communities, and may these aspirations lead to healthier cities and environments.


Source: Manila Times