Commentary

Jul-Aug 2018

URBAN GREENING AND ARCHITECTURAL FORM: A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

Architects in a post-graduate programme were asked to reimagine familiar building typologies by considering species
movement and habitats. The studio, led by Dr Nirmal Kishnani, a sustainability expert, and supported by Dr Anuj Jain, a biologist, yielded six form strategies. Heather Banerd, a graduate of the programme, summarises the studio’s explorations.

by Heather Banerd
 

The loss of green cover in cities is often discussed as an issue of human well-being. We speak of increased urban heat island effect, worsening air quality and the psychological discomfort arising from our separation from nature. These are important points, and critical to developing more liveable cities, but they overlook a crucial consideration: that green elements are also part of complex natural systems that support life in general, including species other than our own.

Of late, building-integrated greenery has become a widely accepted design strategy. Green roofs are popular as they offer added social space; green walls are liked for their visual appeal, creating a ‘wow factor’.

These strategies can be applied to any typology at any stage in the design process. In other words, they have little impact on early consideration of form. Architects like Ken Yeang and WOHA, however, have been exploring the potential of building-integrated greenery in reshaping conceptual form.

In Constructed Ecosystems (2016), Yeang lays out several strategies for incorporating greenery within recesses, voids and incisions. To link these with ground-level planting, Yeang proposes the concept of a ‘linear park-in-the-sky’, in which a vegetated strip can be mounted vertically onto the façade (DiGi Technology Operation Centre, Malaysia) or placed flat as a horizontal ribbon winding upwards around the building (Solaris, Singapore) to create continuity and connectivity.

WOHA’s use of greenery varies with each project; in many projects their design strives for green coverage that is more than the site area. In Oasia Downtown, Singapore, greenery is vertical planting on a second skin façade with patches on mid-level decks. In the PARKROYAL on Pickering, a high-end hotel development, the architecture is organised around cascading terraces acting as patches, supplemented by façade and podium planting.

Both WOHA and Yeang are explicitly interested in using building-integrated greenery to create habitats (patches) and pathways (corridors) for species movement. What is not yet understood is whether biodiversity, such as birds and butterflies, recognises and responds to this design intent, and whether one form strategy is better suited than another.


BIODIVERSITY-CENTRIC GREENING: RULES-OF-THUMB FOR URBAN INTERVENTIONS

by Dr Anuj Jain

The value of a vegetated patch is predicated on general principles of biodiversity in urban patches.

Communities of species common in urban patches tend to be urban adaptors, species tolerant of urban microclimates, noise and edge effects, and who are able to move and disperse in an urban matrix. Such species tend to be habitat generalists, and therefore common and widely distributed in urban landscapes. Increasing generalists is as valuable as increasing species diversity because they are responsible for the bulk of ecosystem services (Gaston 2010).

Patches serve two broad functions, according to size. Habitats, where animals live, feed and breed; and corridors, which facilitate movement between patches. While the design of each is highly dependent on context and species, a general rule is that habitat patches should be a minimum of 10 to 20 metres wide in order for small mammals, insects and lizards to form territories and resident populations. Some small mammals may need vegetation of 20 to 30
metres wide to constitute a habitat. Patches smaller than 10 metres in width tend to function as corridors. The relationship between habitat size and number of species is non-linear. It follows a power-law function (Diamond 1976), wherein a doubling in habitat size will more than double the number of species.

 

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Previously Published Commentary (Abstracts)

Jan-Feb 2018
Water World 
by
 Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle

Groundbreaking solutions are being invented by forward-thinking architects to show how
coastal cities can become more resilient, viewing climate change as an opportunity to lead the way in waterborne and floodresistant architecture.
 
Jan-Feb 2018
The Carbon Question: What Companies Can Do 
by
 Jon Khoo

Groundbreaking solutions are being invented by forward-thinking architects to show how
coastal cities can become more resilient, viewing climate change as an opportunity to lead the way in waterborne and floodresistant architecture.
 
Nov-Dec 2017
Are Naturally Ventilated Office Buildings Now 
by
 Prashant Kapoor

Offices in tropical Asia have changed from offering windows that open to airtight spaces that are fully air-conditioned. Air-conditioning as an engineering technology is, of course, miraculous and amazing. It delivers, with no nonsense or fuss, dry air and constant temperature, which teleports us from the tropics to the Alps in an instant.
 
Nov-Dec 2017
When Architects Become Mayors by Lakshmi Menon

It could be said that architects have some of the skills that are needed to be successful mayors. Architects and mayors are both, at heart, facilitators, moderators and coordinators of teams with multidisciplinary expertise that work towards the wellness of the whole, with an understanding of parts. The architect brings to this an ability to ‘see’ how things come together spatially.
 
Nov-Dec 2017
A New Era of Philippine Infrastructure 
by
 Harry Joseph F. Serrano

Eating healthy and sustainably is starting to shape the hospitality industry worldwide. Aside from catering to our changing diets, new food establishments are also looking at ways they can be designed to reduce waste and their carbon footprint.
 
Jul-Aug 2017
THE SUSTAINABLE KITCHEN 
by
 Miriel Ko

Eating healthy and sustainably is starting to shape the hospitality industry worldwide. Aside from catering to our changing diets, new food establishments are also looking at ways they can be designed to reduce waste and their carbon footprint.
 
Mar-Apr 2017
INDUSTRIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN INDIA 
by
 Namrita Chowdhry

Most industrial establishments in India have embarked on their sustainability journey
only recently. 
The Indian industrial sector comprises companies that have a range of sustainability experience, some for decades, some just recently.
 
Mar-Apr 2017
FROM MACHINE TO HABITAT 
by
 Miriel Ko

The history of industrial architecture can tell you a lot about the evolution of health, environment and human dignity in the workplace. Providing wealth to its owners and millions of jobs to the labouring masses, the development of factories also brought the world mass production, pollution and the rapid growth of makeshift industrial communities.
 
Jan-Feb 2017
THE ALCHEMY OF (SUSTAINABLE) DESIGN 
by
 Dr Nirmal Kishnani
 
Dr Kishnani examines the challenge of teaching sustainability in the classroom, summarising the pedagogy of the urban studio of the Master of Science, Integrated Sustainable Design programme at the School of Design and Environment, NUS. This is described as a set of aspirations and a framework for a studio assignment.
 
Sep-Oct 2016
 
Whether opting to go local, natural or modular, material selection can be less about materialism and more about the planet and the people who inhabit it. 
 
Jul-Aug 2016
 
While many aspects of Singapore’s development have been described internationally in glowing terms, the island’s public spaces have often faced a cooler response. 
 
Mar-Apr 2016
 
To meet the needs of a rapidly growing urban population, a number of new infrastructure projects will need to be delivered around the world, particularly in developing countries where these trends are at their most extreme. 
 
Mar-Apr 2016
 
The need for smarter cities is especially pressing in Asia, which is home to over half of the world’s urban population, and together with Africa, will account for 90 percent of the world’s urban population growth by 2050, according to United Nations’ figures. 
 
Nov-Dec 2015
RETHINKING TATLIN’S TOWER 
by
 Patrick Lim
 
The Third International Tatlin’s Tower was designed in 1919 by Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin—a tremendous structure that was meant to serve as a political propaganda hub for the city, state and the world beyond. 

Sep-Oct 2015
 
Singapore is not often thought of as a competitive market for solar panels. Its thicket of high-rise office and apartment buildings means only a small patch of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels can be set atop each one to generate electricity—that may be a financially inefficient proposition for an individual building owner.

Sep-Oct 2015
RETHINKING COMFORT: A PATHWAY TO LOW-ENERGY BUILDINGS 
by Wolfgang Kessling, Martin Engelhardt and Ina Maia
 
Buildings today require massive energy inputs. The way we define comfort plays a significant role in this, specifically the design of systems needed to cool indoor spaces. But is this necessary? Is the narrow bandwidth of conditions that air-conditioners deliver the only way to achieve thermal comfort?

May-Jun 2015
PRACTISING REGENERATIVE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT 
by Dominique Hes and Chrisna du Plessis
 
Whereas Green design aims to reduce environmental impact, and sustainable design aims to achieve intra- and intergenerational equity in access to resources and a healthy, natural environment, the aim of regenerative design is far higher. It aims to transform the way we create the built environment so that it contributes to the well-being, nourishment and regeneration of the world and all its communities.

Mar-Apr 2015
 
When you think of ecotourism, vivid images are conjured—treetop houses, natural waterfalls, untouched islands using only what nature provides to survive, and wildlife roaming around free where you are being accommodated. While ecotourism has not consistently got to that level yet, it is on its way, and is the fastest growing segment of tourism around the world.

 


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