Sustainable urban expansion | Daily News


Sustainable urban expansion

Cutting down trees
Cutting down trees

ArchWorld speaks to Chartered Architect, Director, Eco Design Consultancy, Visiting Lecturer City School of Architecture, Archt. Nirosha Lloyd on a much needed two-pronged attack in Sri Lanka when it comes to architecture. Today trees are being felled down for monetary gain. That is the natural environment problem. Then we see that Colombo is losing its character, identity and our buildings need to be responsive to our climate. That is the built environment problem.

“The challenge is to upgrade the living standard of people while protecting the environment. Lots of new buildings are coming up. Development is good, but we need to keep Colombo's identity. Being a proud Sri Lankan I don't like to see another shopping city like Singapore. Loosing green areas day by day, increasing the sky line day by day, losing the character of Colombo day by day. Also building more is not a solution. Approving buildings should happen in a proper manner based on guided architectural character, research results such as the requirement, life time of buildings, impact on the environment,” said Lloyd.

Environment intact

Lloyd pointed out that the situation is not beyond our control. From a designer’s perspective, Colombo city can be developed in such a way while maintaining its identity intact. In order to do factors such as culture, climate and context must be considered. She further added that Colombo was an amazing breathable city with lot of transparency comparatively. Galle face green belt, the beach front, old parliament building and Beira water front are main features in Colombo city. We should develop Colombo to cater to our needs and comforts such as visual and thermal comfort. Lloyd advocates following green concepts such as introducing bio-climatic towers which will contribute a lot to the environment. We should have a national policy for developments which protect the environment and user comfort levels, and Colombo's identity.

She added that Port City project is a major development project on going and it's a major investment the government has done. Port City may bring a lot of income to the country and be an icon of the country's development but it's not only the economical facts that we should consider but also the environmental facts. We calculate the costs in dollars and rupees but not the positive or negative impacts on the environment. Development is good as long as its environmentally friendly says Lloyd.

“The question is - is it really necessary? Is it really worth the damage and pollution done to the environment? This will have a bearing on the future generations as well. With the job opportunities the Port City will create, if the work force moves towards the Port City, it may create a gap between there and the other areas of Colombo and the country. If it is possible to develop the port city as a free standing, self-sustained city that fulfills its needs such as energy and workforce, it will reduce the impact on the other parts of the country, and allow those parts also to come to a developed stage. It is now better to focus on using renewable energy to produce energy for our day to day requirements. We could do certain additions and improvements to increase thermal comfort levels. We should always try to reduce building and encourage the use of recycle materials and up cycle products,” explained Lloyd.

Cater peoples’ needs

Lloyd stressed that cities are designed for people. We should develop cities to cater their needs and comforts such as visual comfort and thermal comfort. The challenge is to upgrade the living standard of people while protecting the environment. The solutions are to encourage zero energy buildings or buildings which uses minimal amount of energy and to promote renewable energy as much as possible. Furthermore, to make cities livable, introducing urban parks, green roofs, vertical gardens shading the streets by buildings or trees, orienting buildings properly, shading individual buildings with greenery, proper use of water bodies, proper use of colors and insulation will improve thermal comfort. Lloyd would like to encourage designing beautiful buildings to withstand our climate while protecting the environment.

“We should encourage research on local climate, environment impact on the buildings and building morphology. We should come up with design strategies based on the research results that could reduce pollution and increase awareness in our designs. Using local material, recycled, recyclable and up cycle material is a valuable step that can be taken. This should be practiced as a national policy for all new development around the country,” said Lloyd.

Lloyd outlines an environmental battle strategy. She calls for collaboration. It is more important to respond to the climate because all types of pollution, and environmental concerns, are inter-linked and influence one another. Therefore, there is a necessity to work together as a community to reduce the impact that buildings have on our environment says Lloyd.

We don’t need to be reminded that in the past and at present in the city of Colombo, we experience high temperature, severe rain, drastic changes in wind speeds and floods. The need to design spaces that respond to these climatic factors comes as a bigger necessity when compared to the aesthetics of the space. As architects we should respond to the climate accordingly to mitigate the impact done by the buildings, to the environment. We could always design aesthetically rich buildings while responding to climatic factors.

Lloyd stated the need to follow certain guide lines by which the development is implemented. Before change is put into effect, one must consider the existing character of the particular area and its climate, topography and cultural aspect of the area.

The development of cities should not disturb the natural flow of the environment, rather maintaining minimal foot prints, and concentration on making the maximum use of space while planning. We must have better alternatives with technology and materials during construction that don’t have negative effects on the environment.

On the topic of the Decentralization of Colombo and its suburbs, Lloyd points out that it has already started and is showing a positive impact. Moving the projects such as the Defense Head Quarters and 'Sethsiripaya' out of Colombo to its suburbs has shown parallel development out of Colombo along with the city of Colombo. This is a good move to spread the development to the rural areas without centralizing the development in the city of Colombo.

Greener city

Transformation of Colombo as a cleaner and sustainable city with more greenery, improved solid waste management and the use of green energy sources is essential. The waterways including canals and lakes in the city must be maintained clean whereas, increasing the number of parks, golf course, jogging tracks and bike paths could be established in the banks of these waterways. Developing iconic landmarks, skylines and artistic roundabouts would strengthen the brand identity of the city. Slum and shanties need to be upgraded and new housing projects must be established with modern architecture following the character of the city of Colombo.

When it comes to the built environment, we know that the architecture of the country has been influenced by many colonial forces, like the British, Dutch and Portuguese and post- independence. There are still quite a number of buildings that have been built during certain eras, which help in giving a distinct character to the city. Present day Colombo has seen a drastic change, diminishing its former style, because of rapid growth and urbanization. This increases rate of high rises and skyscrapers, due to which the sense of “breathability” factor within the city seems to be declining.

“Many of the retained structures from colonial periods can be renovated or set for re-adaptive use or even for that matter new buildings could be constructed following examples of such heritage marvels. Such development would help to create a breathable and livable atmosphere, for the people in the city. Colombo could see itself as a desired destination for tourism, investment and to generate revenues as well as opportunities,” said Lloyd.

From ancient times, since the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy period, we can see our own architectural evolution gradually till 1977. Post 1977, the government introduced an open economy to the country. After that there was a development boom, mostly haphazardly.

The colonial period architecture has features that were adopted from the mother countries that are unnecessary or unfitting to the Sri Lankan context. Most of them are prototypes of what was already there. However, as we can see, although they have forced their identity into another country and the architecture is not context generated, they also have lasted for a long time and has become historical icons and identities of different areas of the country.

“Many of the Colonial buildings located in the city are found faded although they are of greater architectural design and rich historical heritage. They must be renovated to bring a new outlook and could be used for hotels or shopping malls such as the Colombo Arcade. The architectural creations of our Sri Lankan kings during ancient times are powerful examples of responding to the context and climate. They are unique to the place and the technology is extremely advanced and unique – even today we don’t completely know how some of the constructions have been done at that time. This type of architecture is what brings us values as a nation and makes us proud to be citizens of a country that had unique, advanced and amazing technology,” pointed out Lloyd.

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