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Palafox: Creating Green Urbanism

Palafox: Creating Green Urbanism
Palafox Associates is one of the pioneers of green architecture and urban planning in the Philippines

By Catherine Dominguez

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Green urbanism, the idea of creating a community that is beneficial to both its human population and the environment, is a school of thought that’s rising in popularity in tandem with the idea that the future lies in sustainable development.

According to Dr. Timothy Beatley, in his book “Green Urbanism: Learning from the European Cities,” green urbanism is an attempt to shape more sustainable places, communities and lifestyles and consume 75 percent of the world’s resources.

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Dr. Beatley, one of the first to espouse the idea of green urbanism, described a city living along the lines of green urbanism as striving to live within its ecological limits, function in ways parallel to nature, striving to achieve a circular rather than a linear metabolism, striving toward self-sufficiency, facilitating more sustainable lifestyles and emphasizing a high quality neighborhood and community life.

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In the Philippines, one man envisions green urbanism not just for the country but for the world as well. He is the renowned green architect and urban planner, Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr.

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As part of his dreams to make a difference with every building the he design and with every piece of land that he master plans, Mr. Palafox founded Palafox Associates in July 1989.

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Mr. Palafox described the company as one of very few pioneers of sustainable architecture in the Philippines, and one of the widely-recognized planning and design firms worldwide.

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The 23-year old multi-disciplinary firm involves over 100 full-time and professional consultants, who have a broad expertise in architecture, urban planning, town planning, site planning and interior design. Its project portfolio ranges from business parks to worship places.

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So far, it has earned more than 200 awards and citations from various local and international organizations and award-giving bodies.

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Most notably, it is the first and only Filipino and Southeast Asian company which made it in the list of world’s top 100 architectural firms for the past 10 years. In 2012, it placed 89th in the ranking, which is dominated by American, European, Japanese and Chinese firms.

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Palafox Associates has been engaged in master planning more than 900 projects across 37 countries. These include 14 billion square meters of land and architecture of more than eight million square meters of building floor area.

Walkable cities

At the core of the company’s principles is the so-called triple bottom-line – people, planet earth and profit, Mr. Palafox told EcoSeed.

On top of economic gains, Mr. Palafox said social equity and the environment are nonetheless key priorities of the company. “It’s in our wit to plan and design environment friendly communities, buildings and cities that are walkable...and interconnected.”

His company was involved in the master planning of the Philippines’ first urban regeneration project, Rockwell Center in business capital Makati. It has been hailed as “a technically innovative, pioneering master plan focused on the development of a walkable and integrated community for residence, work and play,” as described in the company’s coffee table book Architecture, Planning & Design: Palafox Associates The First Twenty Years.

According to Palafox Associates, Rockwell Center redefines modern design and development planning in the context of the country by transforming an abandoned site and a former power plant into a first-class functional space.

It accentuates architecture for an eco-friendly district, with double glazed windows for heat and noise insulation, identifiable spaces, improved street linkage, and 49 percent open space making Rockwell “a pace-setting environmentally-sensitive master planning project.”

Walkability is maintained at a convenient and comfortable level through sidewalks along with landscaping that minimizes warm temperature through shades and head buffers.

Adaptive architecture

As a sustainability advocate, Mr. Palafox does not only see architecture as a way to build healthier environment; it is also a means of addressing one of today’s most pressing problems – climate change.

As the adverse impacts of global warming are becoming more evident and inevitable, his adaptive architecture could strengthen our defense against natural disasters, such as flood, tsunami and earthquake.

Adaptive architecture includes design techniques and technology that could help people cope with extreme weather events and improve the conditions of the environment.

“It actually compliments mitigation measures for climate change,” he said.

For instance, the Philippines sits on the region that is highly susceptible to climate change. Citing a United Nation’s study, Mr. Palafox said the country rank third in disaster risk globally.

Heavy floods are the common in the country brought by about 19 storms that enter area of responsibility of the country annually.

In response to this, Mr. Palafox suggests houses on stilts and floating homes, as well as interconnected elevated walkways, similar to those in Venice, Italy.

In the city of San Juan, he proposed a three-level sidewalk, which is comprised by a ground level walkway, an elevated pedestrian lane and a monorail that will connect the metro rail transit in EDSA to the light rail transit of Aurora Boulevard thru Ortigas, the city’s business capital.

Mr. Palafox said since mitigation measures being made by the government will most likely see results seven to 10 years from now, adaptive measures are the immediate response since the country gets flooded every year and earthquakes may happen anytime.

He also put forward more than 80 recommendations to the government to help make Metro Manila less vulnerable to disasters, as well as lead the country into economic prosperity.

In his exceptional practice of green architecture and urbanism, Mr. Felino Palafox Jr. has earned a number of local and international awards. He is named as Ambassador for Peace from the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace given in New York, Most Outstanding Architect given by the City of Manila, and a Gusi Peace Prize 2011 Laureate for Architecture with Global Excellence and International Urban Planning.

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