|Nature Seychelles’ Zero Energy Net (ZEN) bulding.|
I know and accept that we live in a small island republic, distant from markets and knowledge centres, but I’m still haunted by the notion that the world is passing us by. One of the world trends, if I can call it that because it started in the 1970’s, that hasn’t taken off in Seychelles is the concept of Green Buildings or Green Design.
Green buildings have been developed in response to the energy crisis and growing concerns about the environment. One would have thought the urgent need in Seychelles to save energy and reduce environmental problems should have encouraged a wave of green buildings. But even new infrastructure with ample investment such as Eden Island don’t have solar energy, rain water harvesting, etc.
New buildings constructed by public and government sector bodies are all designed in the old ways. The need for air-conditioning, for example, has been exaggerated in the designs because there is little or no facility for natural ventilation and other ways of keeping cool.
Yesterday, I received news that the Aga Khan Award for Architecture—the world’s most prestigious and lucrative architectural award – had announced the finalists for its new cycle. This cycle, the one million US Dollar award is for the most innovative ways of providing shade and focusing breeze.
Some of the finalists for this award are just amazing. The Met condo towers in Bangkok are the work of WOHA, a company in Singapore whose vision is Breathing Architecture. All of the Met’s balconies and bridges are planted. Some have pools for evaporative cooling. The design promotes both natural cross-ventilation and vertical convective airflow as well as transpiration in the living plants that climb up and down the building.
In rural Thailand, new buildings for the Kantana Film and Animation Institute employ 600,000 bricks in thick, 9 meter tall walls with undulating surfaces and random holes. Some are exterior walls of single-story buildings, and others are free-standing, enhancing shade and directing the flow of air and of people.
Perhaps that is what we need in Seychelles, a generous award that rewards architects and planners who design green buildings and spaces. In a time of global warming, high energy bills, limited space, water shortages and pollution, doesn’t it make sense to design and build so as to save energy, reduce waste and promote well being?
It’s also necessary for the country to have green bulding codes and ensure that these are included in new design and development. In several countries green specifications are required to be part and parcel of new development. Why can’t we do the same here? In fact, we should also be re-visiting our traditional Creol architecture and looking for and updating tried and tested design ideas.
Adapted from Gaia, the author’s column in The People newspaper.