Environment and Humanity-A A +A
Saturday, January 12, 2013
“CLIMATE change is the ‘new normal.’” This is what the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in the wake of super storm Sandy that ravaged the US East Coast. He adds, “This may be an uncomfortable truth but it is one we ignore at our peril.”
It’s another solid wake up call to everyone on climate change, underscoring the need for earthlings to adapt or slowly witness their demise.
The effects of climate change have already caused a lot of losses in terms of lives and properties all over the world, no thanks to severe weather conditions, just like Sandy.
Changes in the way people do their activities, say designing and constructing buildings, can influence the impact of these natural disasters to local communities. During the 40th national architecture week, wherein the theme was “Arkitekturang Tugon sa Kalikasan,” the focus was on the architect’s vital role in environmental protection and, yes, disaster resiliency.
One of those who believed that design professionals should take action on these issues is Cebuano architect Cris Cyril Abbu.
“Climate change affects sustainable development in the Philippines. It affects those who are vulnerable which are mainly women, children and the elderly. You see so much pain, suffering, loss of life and property especially during disasters and in areas susceptible to natural disasters.
“It threatens the water and ecological system and our environment as a whole. I feel that action is required for professional like architects to lead and develop new ideas to protect and address these issues,” he said.
Because of this, Abbu developed a shelter design he calls “emergency and humanitarian architecture.” He said that this came into his mind when he was “involved in emergency temporary shelter and relocation planning for the victims of St. Bernard landslide disaster” in 2006.
His interest in this area grew when he was invited to present his paper entitled “Housing in Times of Climate Change” in the Asia Pacific Housing Forum held in Bangkok, Thailand. The event was sponsored by United Nations Habitat, Red Cross, Red Crescent and the Habitat for Humanity.
He explains that the benefits of his design come in three “components”: environmental, social and economic. The use of local materials, apart from sticking to the local context of the site, minimizes heat absorption that means lesser energy used by the building.
The shelter also exudes multi-functional and adaptable spaces, which mean less wastage in indoor areas. This shows that the design principles of the seemingly primitive bahay kubo are still very relevant in construction today.
Abbu believes that addressing these issues through disaster-resilient shelters is also a way of showing the humanitarian side of architects. He appeals that design professionals do something “in whatever capacity” to help the “depressed, deprived, under-served and isolated” in society.
“Adaptation is an approach for a sustainable future,” he points out. And the better time to do so is now. There is no more time for “next time.”
Climate change urgently means a change in the way the people view buildings as elements that could cushion the impact of weather extremes and a renewed trust in architects to weave their magic in making buildings adapt well to them.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2013.