REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
As buildings continue to dominate nature, sustainability is the automatic remedy, but as new problems arise, a new approach is needed to address this ever-growing issue. Regenerative design, a concept loosely based on sustainability, not only withstand its surroundings but also complement and recondition its environment rather than depleting it.
The following review of literature discusses current situations and sheds light on the untold issues this paper would aim partake.
2.1 Environmental problems in the Philippines
Aside from the Philippines being a frequent target of natural disaster such as typhoons and earthquakes, it faces multiple environmental problems such as pollution, depletion of natural resources, coastal and soil erosion, extinction of wildlife, as well as global warming and climate change. One of the biggest challenges that the country is facing is scarcity of clean water resources in multiple regions, including Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and Central Visayas. About 70% or 160 billion cm3 of all potable water in the country is wasted CITATION Rho12 l 13321 (Villanueva, 2012). This is because only about 10% of wastewater is actually treated and the remaining is usually lost or unused due to poor management during irrigation and 58% of water resources are highly polluted. The condition of the Philippines’ ecosystem is drastically changing, leaving both the environment and its inhabitants’ health at risk. A problem that not only those who are directly involved are concerned but the public as well.
2.2 Architecture’s attempt to provide a solution
CITATION USG16 l 13321 (US Green Buildings Council, 2016) stated that buildings are proven to be large contributors to the decline of the Earth’s condition either in short span or long term. According to their findings, about 41% of the world’s energy consumption are from buildings, due to lighting, heating and cooling, and other factors. Buildings are also said to be responsible for 38% of all the carbon emissions during its entire life span, from construction, operation, to demolition. 40% of Earth’s raw materials dedicated to the construction of buildings and, over 170 million tons of wastes produced by buildings collectively during construction in the USA alone. Lastly, 13.6% of total clean water consumption are allotted to buildings, which is estimated to be 15 gallons of water and a large percentage of it is often wasted.
As a solution to all the troubles that buildings cause, the concept of sustainability resurfaced in the practice of architecture. Sustainable, as per definition of CITATION Bru83 l 13321 (Brundtland Commission, 1983), is meeting the present needs of society without compromising the needs of future generation. These days, the words “energy-efficient”, “eco-friendly”, “green building”, and “ecological design” are almost inevitable in the discussion of architecture and although it has numerous terms, but collectively, their main idea is to make a building sustainable. The application of these concepts makes a building more environmentally sensitive, emitting less impact, and creating a better surrounding for people. CITATION Gha12 l 13321 (Ghani, 2012) stated that the basic principles of sustainable design is (1) to create a healthy interior environment through the use of non-toxic materials, (2) Minimizing energy usage, (3) Usage of eco-friendly building materials that are easily renewable, (3) Designing the building form to adapt and to respond the site, and (4) Structurally built and aesthetically pleasing.
Though sustainability continues to advocate an efficient development for our society, environment, and economy CITATION Hes15 l 13321 (Hes & du Plessis, 2015) consider this as a flawed model for development. They stated that the Utopian idea of changing the world from its unsustainable state to a sustainable condition is unattainable at the moment due to some of the following reasons: inconsistency in the definition of sustainability and the vision of it, and the failure of sustainability to adapt to our diverse and ever-changing environment. It seems like sustainable architecture doesn’t aim farther than making buildings less environmentally damaging. Though sustainability was a big step in solving the problem, the bar of expectation for sustainable buildings to save the environment is set at a low point, that if a building is designed with acknowledgement the environment, it is already deemed as a success. It’s time to step up and take further actions.
2.3 Regenerative Architecture – A different approach
CITATION Bil11 l 13321 (Reed, From Sustainability through Regeneration: Whole and Living System Design, 2011), a prominent architect and a former co-chair of the LEED Technical committee, discussed in one of his presentation that sustainability is no longer the solution to the environmental challenges that we are facing. He suggested that while sustainability was a great stepping stone for solving the problem, it is not the actual solution, for the world is a complex and diverse system and by simply applying sustainable design is oversimplifying and dumbing the whole world down. The environment does not need our protection but rather it needs our alliance in order to grow and develop. In lieu of his beliefs, Reed co-founded a development group called Regenesis. The group’s main advocate is to start a new wave of sustainability in architecture called Regenerative architecture.
Regenerative means to create again or to bring something back to life. As CITATION Ree07 l 13321 (Reed, Shifting from ‘sustainability’ to regeneration, 2007) stated, Regenerative architecture is a new concept that goes beyond sustainability with the sole purpose of making both the environmental and societal conditions better, and not just minimizing the negative impacts. Regenerative architecture employs a complete understanding of the biotic and abiotic systems in the understanding a structure. The three main goals of a successful regenerative design are the following; (1) The integration of local energy production, (2) The integration of local resource/food production methods, and (3) has a “closed-loop” waste-to-resource system, usually by means of recycling and reusing resource up to its optimal usage to maximize its potential. Buildings that re regenerative should not only the building be self-sustaining, but if possible, it should sustain its surroundings as well.
2.3.1 Integration of local energy production
Using fossil fuel as a source of energy has been frowned upon by environmentalists given that it is a finite resource, and plays a big role in the emission of greenhouse gases. By no means is using alternative sources of energy a new concept.. The most common renewable energy sources are solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass. Renewable energy resources have been popular over the last decade and has been one of the go-to innovations that architects use in buildings to make it somehow sustainable
2.3.2 Integration of local resource/food production methods
CITATION Hol78 l 13321 (Holgrem ; Mollison, 1978) coined the term permaculture, a portmanteau of permanent and agriculture, for their concept that branches from but not limited to ecological design, sustainable architecture, and regenerative and self-sustained systems that integrates agriculture inspired from natural ecosystems. Permaculture concentrates on the care for the planet, care for its inhabitants, and setting restrictions in number of people and their consumption. Some of the common innovations applied in architecture today that exercises the concept of permaculture is rainwater harvesting, vertical gardens, and rooftop gardens.
2.3.3 Closed-loop waste-to-resource system
As defined by ecologists, a closed-loop system is basically a cycle that does not exchange matter outside its system. Although the Earth itself is the only thing that can be on a closed-loop system, numerous industrial subsystems aspire to be as close-looped as possible. A closed-loop system may be possible through reusing, recycling, and recovery of resources. For example, on a par with the first principle of regenerative design, the wastes from the energy produced locally by the structure can be recovered and reused. Another is maximizing the use of water in a building, wherein rainwater and wastewater can be harvested, filtered, and refined to provide, if not drinkable, at least, potable water.
This aspect of regenerative design is highly applicable for the cases of wasted water here in the Philippines. Considering that more than half of water resources in the country is being depleted, introducing a new resource system can help provide better living conditions for inhabitants and a better situation for the environment.
2.4 Existing projects
Muntinlupa is one of the cities in the country that has dealt with water related problems due to the scarcity of clean water and lack of proper water management system. Public markets in Muntinlupa city has been disposing its untreated wastewater to nearby streams which then directs into the Laguna de Bay which is one of the main clean water sources of NCR. Due to the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, the city is obliged to act upon the issue and improve their services to the communities and environment.
The local government of the city searched for a low-cost system that would allow them to build their wastewater treatment facility near the public market in order to conform with the guidelines of the Clean Water Act and furthermore, to avoid the closure of the marketplace and loss of source of income for the city. The city chose LINAW (Local Initiative for Affordable Wastewater Treatment) by the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as the sponsors of the project. LINAW’s main goal is to improve the water quality management of LGUs by using low-cost sanitation system.
In addition to the hybrid technology selected, the city utilized cocopeat, an ecofriendly and 100% organic material from coconut husks, as an alternative filter to strain treated water. Not only did this decision kept the costs of the project to a minimum, but also provided employment and generated income to the local coconut industry.
After a year of completion, the new wastewater treatment facility of the city was able to decrease the water pollution level from 600 mg/liter to less than 30 mg/liter, comply to the Clean Water act of 2004, insure the source of income of vendors, recycle water from wastewater into reusable potable water, save the public market an approximate of PHP 100,000 of operational costs.
The budgetary aspect for the project was considered as well as the financial standing of its potential users, something that some practitioners of green architecture often forgets due to the cost of sustainable design. Another innovation that provided this project well was the use of local materials, the cocopeat as a water filter. It lessened the costs of the project since they are locally available and easily accessible and it also opened new jobs for locals.
On a global scale, one of the existing projects in the world that is considered to be Regenerative is the proclaimed “North America’s Greenest Building” is located at the campus of University of British Columbia, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. The building is designed to be completely water self-sufficient, with two different water system to attain this goal, namely the Rainwater system and the Reclaimed water system.
Rain that falls on the 1000 m2 roof collection area on the building harvests about 1,226,000 liters per year to support the average demand for clean water of 2000 liters/day which includes domestic use, commercial use, cleaning services, and building maintenance. The remaining 57,000 liters is dedicated for the fire suppression system.
The reclaimed water they utilize for the water closets, irrigation of greenhouses, landscapes, and vertical gardens is either from the building itself or from the wastewater treated on-site by utilizing a solar aquatics bio-filtration system. Per day, they acquire about 10,000 treated wastewater and uses only about 7000 liters of it per day by the building functions and the excess is fed back to the sewer line.
In addition, as part of CIRS’s mission to spread awareness of sustainable design and to educate people, they wanted to expose the systems of the building as much as possible. They made the wastewater treatment system to be plainly noticeable to visitors and bystanders by putting their vertical gardens and green walls on the southwest corner of the building.
Through architectural theories such as, proper site selection, building orientation, usage of proper materials, as well as the application of utilitarian thinking, that all elements must have an important role in the overall performance of the building and with the aid of modern technology, this building with its innovative attempt to partake in restoring the environment by treating water as a scarce resource and regenerating and prolonging the use of water is an exemplifying example on how architecture should be in response to the Earth’s prevalent problem.
2.5 Designing with nature for nature
Creating a whole new built environment that collaborates not only with people but as well as with nature is the core ideology of regenerative design. Designing a structure with environmental regeneration in mind might be the key to completely diminishing the negative impacts of buildings to our home planet. However, further research is needed in order to fully understand the aspects of nature that designers might be missing and develop a new system, with regeneration, to address today’s challenges and to provide a better future for the upcoming generations. A further research on the current state of environment in the Philippines and if regenerative design is feasible and truly applicable is needed as well.