Sustainability shouldn’t just be about looking out for the planet – it should also include
caring for the people living in it. With the spectre of global warming looming over the world, the biggest buzzword in nearly all industries today is without doubt “sustainability”.
One segment where the sustainability trend has gained the most traction is none
other than the design and build industries. Case in point: the number of LEEDcertified homes in the United States had grown 19 percent between 2017 and 2019, according to the US Green Building Council. Furthermore, the 2021 World Green Building Trends report revealed that respondents were planning to increase green building activity by 2024. Specifically, 42 percent of respondents said they were planning to use green building best practices for more than 60 percent of their projects. These statistics should not come as a surprise. Buildings account for 33 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 40 percent of global energy consumption. As such, ensuring that new buildings leverage new technologies to generate clean energy and are constructed with sustainable materials would be pivotal to reducing carbon emissions. But times are changing. With more and more people now aware of the importance of wellness, building sustainability cannot be one-dimensional – it must also be focused on catering to the wellbeing of humans.
“Sustainable building practices used to be focused on how buildings impact the
outer environment. In recent years, designers have also been adopting the
outside-in approach and focusing on indoor environments,” said Jojo Tolentino,
President & CEO of AIDEA, during the American Standard Design Catalyst LIVE
webinar on March 23. “Before the pandemic, wellness was already growing in popularity. When COVID19 hit, the stress and anxieties caused by the lockdowns underscored how poorly some spaces are designed and emphasized our need to stay healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically,” he added.
One of the best examples of how a building can achieve holistic sustainability and
care for both the environment and the people is the Menarco Tower in Metro
Manila, the Philippines. Designed by AIDEA, the tower is the only recipient of the LEED Gold and WELL Gold certifications in Southeast Asia. While the LEED GOLD certification honors excellence in environment responsibility and the efficient use of resources, the WELL GOLD certification is a recognition of a building’s ability to positively impact human health and wellbeing. To achieve this harmonisation of environmental sustainability and human wellness, AIDEA wrapped this 32-storey office building with a double-glazed, curtain wall system that prevents urban heat from entering the building. This in turn allows occupants to stay cool while reducing air conditioning load and utility costs. The use of floor-to-ceiling double-glazed windows, too, keeps heat gain at bay while affording office workers with copious amounts of natural light that helps improve productivity and reduces the need for artificial lightning in the day, thus lowering energy consumption. To cater to the wellness of office workers, the building filters the air to prevent the spread of airborne viruses, bacteria and other contaminants.
A holistic approach to sustainability has also been applied to the water supply in
the building. For example, the landscaping at the podium deck utilizes water
harvested from air conditioning condensate drains and captured rainwater for
maintenance and irrigation. Water-saving faucets like those offered by LIXIL and
American Standard have also been installed to minimize water wastage.
In addition, building occupants are provided with ready access to potable water –
the water from the faucets is filtered and completely safe to consume. In fact, its
quality even exceeds World Health Organisation standards.
Another example of how sustainability can be more than just about saving the
environment can be seen in a community project in Gunung Sari, Indonesia. This
project was centered on transforming a small hill with little economic value into a
public park. Undertaken by Jakarta-based architecture firm Aboday, the focus here was less about designing aesthetically pleasing physical spaces than it was about the
wellness of humans. But wellness in this particular project was not about health. Rather, it was about something more profound – the empowerment of the local community. “The main idea behind this project was to create a self-supported public space that could generate extra income for locals without damaging too much of nature.
Besides professional artists, members of the community were also involved in the
construction of the park,” said Aboday founder Ary Indrajanto, who also
participated in the American Standard Design Catalyst LIVE webinar.
Apart from improving the quality of life through a rise in income levels, the project
also came with an educational element – local youths were given the opportunity
to learn more about the MICE industry and gain new skills by managing the park
operations. In other words, design thinking had in this scenario helped create sustainable futures for the younger generation. “A good public park shouldn’t simply be one where people can take nice selfies,” said Indrajanto. “Architecture design can also bring prosperity to a wider audience.”