Shaping sustainable lifestyles | Daily News

Shaping sustainable lifestyles


To be like Singapore we need to learn from Japan. Apart from small tests, in Japanese schools, the students don’t take any exams until they reach grade four. It is believed that the goal for the first three years of school is not to judge the child’s knowledge or learning, but to establish good manners and to develop their character. And these aspects of human behavior condition the child’s mind in such way that it facilitates architecture. ArchWorld speaks to Chartered Architect Dhanangika Medagama on destination Singapore!

The Japanese are a resilient culture as it has survived many natural disasters including the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bomb. They did this through their education system. They used the one resource that they had – the youth.

Medagama stated that there is no point in trying to create a beautiful city without changing human behavior and human thinking. To create change we need a good leader with vision and this can be made possible by having a good education system. And to do this we may have to follow the Japanese Education system.

“I would prefer to see Colombo become a Singapore. That is a clean beautiful, well-planned well-disciplined city with beautiful buildings, a fine landscape and adequate public spaces with well-planned infrastructures. First of all, we need to change our peoples’ mind set. I know it is very difficult to change this. But if a country like Singapore could do this why can’t we? When comparing Singapore and Sri Lanka, both our countries have similar qualities such as mixed nationalities, weather, geography and other aspects,” said Medagama.

Archt. Dhanangika Medagama

Over the last few years Colombo has been developing rapidly. But to develop the city we need to consider certain other aspects such as regulations, the infrastructure and future plans. For an example, we cannot buy a land and erect a building just like that. Attention needs to be paid to regulations and proper infrastructure in order to sustain such a development or the whole project will fail.

Proper parking facilities
Water management

“In order to develop the city, we need to have well developed infrastructure. Without that we cannot even conceive of development. There should be proper parking facilities and plans that ensure the building does not disturb the moving traffic. There should be proper water management and good road network facilities. Most of our electricity power, fresh water consumption, discharge of waste and sewers is not sufficient enough. Government should look after these facilities to develop the country,” said Medagama.

He pointed out that if Colombo city has reached a certain limit, one solution is the land fill and starting new development. As we can see in Port City, they have filled the sea and are planning on making maximum use of the land. Countries like Dubai have already developed these concepts.

He stated that the Colombo Port City has the potential and can fulfill international standards. It spans 269 hectares of reclaimed land from the sea and it will be a well- planned premiere residential, retail and business destination. To earn something, we have to make sacrifices because only then will you gain the benefits. The port city is not for us but for our future generation. If the government takes full responsibility why should we be against it?

“To build a green city it will take extra effort and an extra cost. I prefer to use the term ‘Sustainable City’ rather than use the term ‘Green City Concept’. However the world now has to deal with global warming. We need to consider this event when it comes to design. The Urban Development Authority has already taken steps to address this problem. So now as architects running an architectural practice or as a citizen, it is always better to think of sustainable buildings as much as possible. A green city or a sustainable city is not only about planting trees. It must consider other related facilities and elements as well such as electricity, rainwater harvesting, natural light and energy serving,” explained Medagama.

Medagama added that we live in a tropical climate country. So, when designing a building we need to consider these factors and also pay attention to client requirement and other details. However, in order to overcome the heat factor, we need to design the buildings in such a way that it will always have cross ventilation.

“An architect or a designer has certain limitations when designing a new building. It can be insufficient space - the availability for the development. The client will go for maximum utilization of every inch of the premise and may not consider other factors such building façade, creating courtyards/ cross ventilation or obtaining natural lighting in to the building. We at least need to maintain the minimum distance between two buildings rather than hugging each other and maintain some breathing spaces around the buildings. Air-conditioning of the building will be a must in the near future. For that we might look at the alternative options like solar power,” added Medagama. Medagama pointed out that all majestic stupas, ruins of fortifications like Sigiriya and Yapahuwa have stood the test of time and are proof of the amazing abilities of our forefathers. Those structures were done without modern machinery and yet are structurally sound. According to the records these were built prior to Portuguese colonization.

“In a way we can define a building as a machine and buildings consume energy. Therefore we have to balance such input and output, maintain sustainable measures, while preserving energy resources for future generations. It is our duty to design active and passive climatic responsive buildings. Today all around the world the climate is changing. But by living in Sri Lanka we know that we get enough sunlight throughout the day and fairly acceptable wind across the country. Also we get considerable rainfall during the year. As far as I know we do not get burning sunshine or freezing cold weather. Therefore we do not need entirely covered buildings and we should entertain natural air conditioning patterns instead of using air conditioners that use a hell of a lot of energy,” explained Medagama.

He further pointed out that we need a sustainable Colombo. But his belief is we need rural areas too. These rural areas do not need to directly catch up with Colombo. A sound strategic development action plan must be planned. Both the private sector and the government mainly look at the immediate context of a particular project/development in most of the cases. But they have to go through necessary initial impact assessments as well as related pre (pilot) surveys to understand the potential big picture. Also, the absence of proper feasibility studies is another major concern.

“Going back in time, our forefathers did architectural Marvels and still we cannot understand how they have done those. Anyhow, now a majority of us architects are practicing the postmodernism architectural style in Sri Lanka. Therefore, to the best of my understanding and belief we do have proper evolution in terms of architectural style in Sri Lanka. But unfortunately weak visionary plans have got in the way,” said Medagama.



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