SPEECHES & INTERPELLATIONS

Speeches

GREEN ARCHITECTURE: THE NEW CHALLENGE

Message of Sen. Nene Pimentel to the newly inducted architects at the Manila Hotel on March 14, 2010

Chairman Armando N. Alli of the Board of Architecture; the President and officers of the United Architects of the Philippines; President Greg Timbol of the Architecture Advocacy International Foundation; Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

Congratulations to the new architects who passed the board examinations last January and who are now being inducted into the ranks of the licensed architects of our country this afternoon.

 

The parents and the people who made it possible for their sons and daughters to finish their studies and become the noble professionals that they are today also deserve our congratulations.

 

Noble Profession

 

Architecture is a noble profession. Its nobility lies in the fact that as professionals, you are always – or are supposed to be - looking for ways to build what is beautiful and stable in the structures that you design for our people.

 

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, before buildings are seen as beautiful, they have to be conceptualized and designed by architects and built under the supervision of architects.

 

Views of Vitruvius

 

In what is reported to be the earliest surviving written work on the subject of architecture, the Roman architect Vitruvius, De architectura, in the early 1st century AD, said that “a good building should satisfy the three principles of firmitatis utilitatis venustatis,  which translates roughly as –

 

·         “Durability - it should stand up robustly and remain in good condition.

·         “Utility - it should be useful and function well for the people using it.

·         “Beauty - it should delight people and raise their spirits.”

 

Put into practice, that means that architects design and construct buildings that are durable, useful and beautiful.

 

Prehistory

 

Yet long before Virtruvius articulated what he saw as the essentials of architecture in the 1st century AD, archeological diggings in Egypt, in Mesopotamia, in Peru, in India, in Bangladesh and other parts of the world discovered that even in prehistory gorgeous and magnificent structures had already been built by your predecessors.

 

The seven wonders of the world that had been listed down not by politicians or novelists but by Herodotus (484 BC-425 BC), and Callimachus (305BC-240BC) most, if not all, had been built by architects.

 

Seven wonders

 

Let me cite just three examples of the old list of the seven wonders of the world: the Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus (now a part of Turkey) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

 

The additional seven wonders of the world are also the handiwork of architects. Among these are the Acropolis in Greece, the Eiffel Tower of Paris and the Taj Mahal of India.

 

Current wonders

 

More recently the Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur are recognized well-nigh universally as a dazzling example of durability, utility and beauty among buildings not only in Malaysia but the world-over. Here in Manila, I think that the ship-shaped SM shopping mall at the reclamation area in Pasay is another example of innovative architecture.

 

What I mentioned as architectural achievements are perhaps ideals that are to be emulated.

 

More beneficial

 

But in today’s world, I suggest that despite what might be your longings to build structures that the world will admire, perhaps, it will be more beneficial to our people and the peoples of the rest of the world if a shift in the direction your profession will bring you towards what is now called: Green Architecture.

 

Climate change, political unrest in the Middle East, and the non-renewable character of crude oil make it urgent that the government, the public and the professions that can do something about it should accept the inevitability of the people’s need to explore “green alternatives to their everyday needs.”

 

It is said that “almost 40 percent of the United State's carbon output is produced by residential and commercial buildings”. And carbon dioxide emissions, experts say, contribute to global warming.

 

Thus, green architecture is one prospect for the concerned architects to explore, design and construct buildings that will no longer be dependent on crude oil for heating or ventilating purposes.

 

 

Models

 

There are ready models in Malmo, Sweden, New York City and Dubai.

 

In Malmo, there is the Turning Torso Tower and in New York, the Hearst Tower.

 

            The Turning Torso Residential Tower in Malmo “is a prime example for self-sufficient, energy-independent, residential apartment buildings” according to Design-BuildNetwork.com.

 

 “The $223.5 million Turning Torso Residential Tower contracts 100 percent renewable energy for its use, obtained from locally provided solar, wind, bedrock and water power. The security system and double water systems have their own power supply. Even organic waste produced in the building is compacted and transported for decomposition and biogas production.”

 

In New York, “the corporate headquarters for communication and magazine company Hearst Corporation shows that (greening the environment) isn't just a concern for private citizens - corporate responsibility can inspire new standards in green architecture. The Hearst Tower is considered the first green skyscraper in New York City after earning the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, the highest construction standard for green buildings.”

 

Even in Dubai which is one of the world’s sources of crude oil, there are signs of change. “Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is both vice president of the U.A.E. and the ruler of Dubai, announced that new buildings in his city were expected to meet strict green standards by January 2010.

 

To show their determination to meet the standards of LEED, there is now an Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) that formulates the guidelines to rate building projects’ sustainability and assure their compliance with the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

 

Abu Dhabi, too

 

Wikepedia is the source of the information that another example can be found in Abu Dhabi’s “Tameer Towers, a $100 million mixed-use development designed by an international architecture firm.

 

“Among Tameer’s sustainable features, residences will be tucked under landscaped terraces, keeping them cool naturally, and the buildings will sit astride a canal patterned after the San Antonio Riverwalk and meant to encourage people to walk rather use cars. The latticed skin of Tameer’s towers, some 72 stories tall, will be made of locally produced pre-cast concrete panels, saving the import of construction materials.

 

Vernacular forms

 

To go for Green Architecture, an architect wisely advices that Dubai or any country, for that matter,  should pay heed to its own “vernacular forms” —large tents, for example, cooled by breezes and not air conditioning—and not rush to re-create a Manhattan-style skyline.”

 

I quote Architect Eric Freed who wrote in Green Building and Remodeling for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, 2008): “New market studies are released each month showing that a majority of people would be willing to pay more for green building features — and even more for healthy features. The surging media interest in green building, the rise of new green-themed magazines, and the increasing number of new green materials all show how much in demand green building has become."

 

Priority

 

It is my humble submission that as the latest batch of architects in this country, you should prioritize Green Architecture in the exercise of your profession. Your priority, if I might propose, is to design, create, and build structures of habitation, offices and similar buildings that are environmentally friendly and energy-savers at the same time.

 

If you do that, then, you will repay our people for the privilege of having studied and finished the architectural course prescribed by our department of education and the professional regulatory board.

 

Ideal challenge

 

Ideally, however, the challenge to make our buildings not only sturdy but things of beauty that may stand competition with other buildings in the world remains for our architects to accomplish.

 

I hope that someday soon, I would be privileged to see Filipino designed architectural masterpieces that will reflect our culture, our dreams and aspirations as a people and win the accolades of other races the world-over.

 

More urgent

 

The more immediate needs of our people, however, may be far easier to do. I urge local government units throughout the country to have their provincial capitols, their city and municipal halls, and even their barangay headquarters, our public schools and gymnasiums designed by our architects that will reflect the Filipino spirit, the Filipino resilience, the Filipino traits of faith in God, love of neighbor, and hope for the well being of our people. And over and above all, structures that are energy-savers and environmental friendly as well.

 

In my view, our Filipino architects are equipped with the training, the vision and the expertise to make this dream come true.

 

Beauty inspires

 

Then, inspired by the beauty of your architectural designs, our people will raise their targets for a better life and a better tomorrow, not for themselves, alone, but also for the generations coming after them.

 

Congratulations again. May you all have a long, enjoyable and fruitful exercise of your profession.

 

Thank you and God bless you, all.



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