Architects, engineers role in mitigating climate change amid urbanization
“In the near future the harmful effects of climate change will affect how we live, how we work, and do our thing,” warned Architect Vittorio Alejandre Marcus Vinarao, an environmental scientist.
In the forum “Banyuhay (Bagong Anyo ng Buhay): Correlating Cities with the Environment,” Vinarao, a full time instructor at Silliman University College of Engineering and Design, linked climate change to urbanization.
The forum was organized by the United Architects of the Philippines-Student Auxiliary in partnership with Silliman University Student Government Environment Committee (SUSG-EnviCom).
Mitigate and adapt
Vinarao recalled that typhoons in the past only visited Eastern Luzon, but starting a few years ago, the path of typhoons started shifting to Mindanao, passing by Dumaguete.
To respond to climate change, Vinarao said that mitigation and adaptation are key factors.
Mitigation deals with urban form and structure. It means limiting urban expansion, reducing the need to travel, and prohibiting development in flood-prone areas.
In building structures, mitigation is choosing energy-efficient materials for construction and following design principles that use low-carbon energy and technology, such as solar panels and energy-efficient lights.
It also means switching to renewable sources of energy and reducing the use of private cars.
“Another response to climate change is adaptation. It is to reduce the vulnerability of cities and nations to the adverse impacts of anticipated climate change,” Vinarao shared.
Adaptation is having green infrastructures. This includes having water management that protects, restores, or imitates the natural water cycle. He cited vegetation on roofs as an example.
He emphasized that “before developers or builders would build communities, there should be a survey of properties,” to ensure that the location is not prone to flooding or to damage from calamities.
He added that there should also be investments in seawalls and other structures as protection against coastal flooding.
Water, the road’s enemy
Engr. Viernov D. Grefalde, Officer-in-Charge of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, said that buildings and roads must be designed considering future climatic conditions.
“Water is the road’s number one enemy,” Grefalde said.
He said that in addition to flooding, inefficient drainage worsens the quality of roads. For example, when asphalt overlay is submerged in floodwater, it makes the road more vulnerable to damage.
Grefalde said that making canals to divert water has to be the top priority to be considered in constructing roads.
Architect Vinarao, moreover, observed that Dumaguete lacks a proper drainage system, making floods more frequent especially during a heavy downpour.
The face of reality
But convincing the people wouldn’t be easy. Sometimes, we tend to favor the conveniences over the long-term solutions.
Engr. Grefalde even challenged the architects and engineers: “Use your influence as product specifiers,” he said.
Architects and engineers should be the ones promoting products that can help save the environment.
Let’s take for example the Bullitt Center in Seattle. It is said to be the world’s greenest commercial building which uses net zero energy. The building was designed to use the rainwater as its source of water, harness ample solar energy to power the whole building, use natural ventilation both suitable for day and night, and composting human waste without odor and with efficiency.
Other examples of going green approaches despite rapid urbanization would be New York’s Central Park and France’s first solar highway.
Self-sustaining cities, the answer
“The climate is changing, so does engineering and design,” Vinarao said.
Building self-sustaining cities could be a key to resolving our problems.
High density in a small area could mean lesser resource consumption and emission of harmful substances. Few parking spaces in Dumaguete will discourage private car owners to just drive around the city freely but instead just take a stroll to and from their destinations.
Self-sustaining city reduces the need to travel because you can have everything you need in one area. If you build a compact city that can provide the basic needs, people can just access everything without riding on a vehicle that emits carbon dioxide, one of the gases that trap heat inside our atmosphere.
Having a self-sustaining city saves the natural habitat of animals because there would be no need to deforest the forested areas. This would equate to a healthier planet for humans, animals, and plants. (As published on The Weekly Sillimanian on November 17, 2017)