MANILA, Philippines — High-density megacities on the one hand and suburban sprawl on the other have overburdened modern settlements and the populations that live in them. Armed with lessons from the pandemic, there is now an opportunity to reshape real estate in the Philippines through communities that offer access to parks, amenities, and essential services with just the right middle-density sizing to be truly sustainable and future-proof.
In a recent webcast by AboitizLand, executives from Miami-based DPZ CoDesign, thought leaders on New Urbanism, and representatives from Greenstrat made a strong case for comprehensive sustainability as it applies to residential developments.
The panel of speakers featured the residential-recreational development Foressa Mountain Town in Cansomoroy, Balamban, Cebu to illustrate the 7 Cs of what makes communities inherently resilient:
A resilient community is characterized by right sizing achieved through the efficient and equitable use of land area.
DPZ CoDESIGN partner Matthew Lambert says his organization believes that the building blocks of sustainable development are the neighborhoods. This is true in historic places around the world and is still identifiable in the Philippines and in many of Cebu’s old urban cores like Talisay, Naga, and Carcar which are centered on places of community importance, such as a church, plaza, city hall, and/or school.
By structuring the development of the 300-hectare highland estate into individual neighborhood increments, there is an opportunity to provide for all property size preferences while giving Foressa residents relatively walkable access to parks and other amenities.
2. Complete, connected
In complete and connected neighborhoods, a thoughtful community design that balances jobs, housing, retail, schools, and open space creates a critical mass to sustain neighborhood businesses and amenities that are mixed and matched to different uses and activities, according to Senen Ampil Antonio, a partner in DPZ CoDESIGN and an expert resource of the United States Department of State and the United Nations Environment Programme.
This is then supported by a network of diverse, well-connected, shaded, and pedestrian-friendly streets that are better for cars, bikes, as well as people.
Marie Therese Santiano, senior design associate for Greenstrat, describes the network of bike and hike trails in Foressa as a meandering story set amid lush vegetation with scenic views of caves and a port in the distance.
Whether for camping, biking, or crossing rivers with safety ropes, the variety of interconnected adventure trails were designed based on US standards.
3. Complex, convivial
To organize a grand mountain site with very different features, the masterplan for Foressa brought together urban design, architecture, adventure and landscape components within five thematic districts: Light which is currently under construction, Water, Earth, Wood and Air.
Antonio explains that each theme is drawn from the characteristics of the surrounding environment and then manifested in the design of the architectural details. In all of Foressa’s complexity, the community is unified by the theme “Let nature be your playground.”
“Convivial” refers to public spaces that are safe, engaging, accessible and comfortable. In Foressa, the generous open spaces are designed into different types: large spaces for easy and safe social distancing and community activities, medium-size open spaces for parties, and intimate spaces for hanging out with next-door neighbors.
4. Conserving, cost-efficient
Paul Crabtree, who works on sustainable urban infrastructure projects as founder and president of the Crabtree Group, Inc., discusses that one of the challenges to conservation was to “craft a sensitive response to the mountain terrain. As the design for Foressa was being done, we were looking at the grades (slopes), what are the types of excavations that we will need to make in order to fit the homes and streets into the mountainside in a sensitive manner.”
Joy Dawis-Asuncion, senior design associate at Greenstrat, Inc. who works with local government units on green advocacies, reveals that together with a local engineering firm, they determined the areas prone to erosion.
In collaboration with environmental experts from the University of San Carlos, they then identified endemic trees that can be planted in Foressa to prevent erosion on the hillside, not only to protect adventure trails but also to prevent sedimentation in natural waterways.
Finally, thoughtfully planned communities create and maintain value. Through design approaches like green infrastructure which includes installing a rainwater treatment facility; architectural strategies like high-pitched roofs; and mindful urban planning, enhance the potential for property value escalation in its developments such as Foressa. Consequently, the occupants’ investment is protected and surrounding localities gain benefits over time.
Summing up the key elements of what makes a resilient community, Lambert quotes a former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa: “Designing a city can be a very powerful means to generate happiness.”
For Filipinos, the growth of sustainable communities like Foressa represents hope that succeeding generations are provided safer, more comfortable, and innovatively planned neighborhoods.
Article and Photo originally posted by Philippine Star last January 12, 2021 10:00am.