Read an Excerpt
ECO-RESORTS: PLANNING AND DESIGN FOR THE TROPICS
By Zbigniew Bromberek
Architectural PressCopyright © 2009 Zbigniew Bromberek
All right reserved.
Chapter One1.0 A question of sustainability
Tourist facilities in the tropics, and eco-tourist facilities in particular, target very valuable and usually highly sensitive environments. For example, the greatest demand for tourist development opportunities in Australia can be seen on its eastern coast, from the central coast of New South Wales to Marlin coast (the coastal area near Cooktown) in the far north of Queensland. Concentrations of this demand build up pressure for extensive development in several locations, including the entire coastal strip in the tropics up to Daintree, Cooktown and Cape Melville National Park. While in the south of Australia the natural environment has been subjected to urbanisation for many years, in the tropics this type of modification has been introduced fairly late, in the last several years. In other words, the targeted tropical section of the coast in Australia remains its only unspoilt part, the only refuge for many endangered animals and the only remaining habitat for many endangered plants. This trend was also noted, and a response to it called for, by the Alliance of Small Island Developing States in its 1994 Barbados Programme for Action (WMO 1995). The same can be said about other parts of the world. The focus of tourist developments is nowadays firmly trained on previously untouched or undeveloped areas. Figure 1.1.
Apparently, there is an answer to this environmental dilemma and it is the 'ecologically sustainable (tourist) development'. Many definitions of ecologically sustainable development or ESD have been offered, some general and some more precise. The following definition, promoted by the United Nations, is also known as the 'Brundtland definition':
[ESD] is development, which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The concept of 'sustainability' is relatively new. The Bank of English, the database on which the first edition of Collins-COBUILD Dictionary of English was based in 1987, contained around 20 million words of written and spoken English of the 1980s. There was no mention of 'sustainable' let alone 'sustainability' among them. Both appear as low-frequency words in the 1995 edition of the Bank, based on a collection of 200 million words of the 1990s. Even the most recent (2006) edition of the dictionary does not define 'sustainability'. As a concept, is it still too early or too difficult to grasp, perhaps?
'Sustainability' is a term that represents a social and cultural shift in the world order. It has become a symbol describing this inevitable, ongoing transformation. As such, the term has little to do with the literal description or dictionary definition of the word, but is the name for a new attitude and new way of looking at the world. 'Sustainability' is also a concept increasingly used as a measure of worth — when it comes to evaluating the contemporary built environment. It appears that a lot of effort has been put into integrating various assessment techniques related to environment-friendly, energy-efficient buildings and developments as well as other activities involving management of natural resources under a banner of 'sustainability'.
More prudent approaches to the environment gain recognition and importance. Development methods and approaches have been changing worldwide to adopt the concept of sustainability into the planning and design of the built environment. To build, by definition, means to make a lasting impact on the environment. The challenge is to find a balance between the aesthetic and environmental needs of a project, as well as between tangible and intangible threats and opportunities, to secure increasingly scarce resources for future generations. Architecture these days more often than ever is judged as 'good architecture' as long as it provides a high quality environment that is cost-optimal and consistent with energy-efficiency at all stages of construction and use.
Users, owners, designers, constructors, and maintainers from all sectors are actively seeking techniques to create a built environment, which will efficiently use all resources and minimise waste, conserve the natural environment and create a healthy and durable built environment. Numerous sources offer principles of 'sustainable architecture' to guide and help architects.
Within the field of 'sustainable architecture', sustainability represents a transition to a 'more humane and natural' built environment. However, architecture, by its very nature, uses energy, alters the existing fabric and imposes its structural forms upon others. It will always have some detrimental impact on the environment. No active human-created system can survive without contributions from the larger natural environment or ecological systems. In this context, the sustainable response is an approach which limits that detrimental impact — not so much in terms of the design itself as of any worthy objectives. We can, nevertheless, conserve our resources and lessen the physical, social and cultural impacts on the environment through appropriate building design. Sustainable architecture hence requires consideration of issues that have the scope considerably broadened from those involved in, say, 'solar architecture'.
'Sustainable architecture' has also been defined as the creating and responsible management of a healthy built environment based on ecological and resource-efficient principles. Sustainable buildings aim to limit their impact on the environment through energy and resource efficiency. Sustainable architecture is expected to bring together at least five key elements:
organisational sustainability, and
In practice, an ESD project is always the result of a compromise and trade-off between these characteristics since usually one may only be achieved at a slight detriment to the others. One has to doubt whether such a 'partial sustainability' can be sustainable at all. Nevertheless, it appears to be the only approach acceptable to the majority of developers and politicians.
A sustainable architecture approach is essentially context specific, and relates to the resources that are locally available, to a specific environmental setting, to local customs and identifiable needs. One cannot classify any particular building technology as being the 'sustainable technology', nor can one assume that any system that works well in one place will work equally well in another. Extrapolation of results from one location is useful only to estimate the potential to make a valid contribution towards sustainability of the built environment somewhere else. It should be stressed that, despite its global connotations, sustainability is all about a very localised interplay of various influences. If sustainable development is to become relevant, it has to evolve from local conditions, principles, traditions, factors, indicators and actions.
It works both ways. Decisions about a facility's design, made by tourist developers and their designers alike, have a direct impact on local ecosystems. The design should achieve its aims adequately and efficiently without wasting or damaging local resources or polluting the environment globally, but locally in particular. Both creative (aesthetic) qualities and indoor environment conditions should therefore derive from relevant practical knowledge based on relevant and up-to-date scientific theory. On the part of the designer, the principal requirement is that of a greater understanding of the total nature of the built environment. Particularly important is an understanding of the role which the building envelope, i.e. the system of walls, roofs, floors and windows, manipulated by the architect, plays in response to local conditions in creating the internal environment. Clearly, the design of the physical indoor environment is very much an architectural problem and needs to be considered at the earliest stages of the design process.
Examples of architecture seen in the tropics around the world seem to demonstrate that architects are seldom aware of the fundamental relationships at play at the 'building — (external) environment' interface. Even more evident is the designers' lack of knowledge and experience concerning the diverse and complex problems of human responses to temporary changes of climate — much the same, as is the case with tourists. Habits, established preferences, reasons for travelling to the tropics, and related expectations and perceptions all influence requirements to which the design should respond.
Sustainability objectives, relevant to the built environment, can be both tangible and measurable. Apart from others, which are not less important, in the technological area they are:
conservative management of the natural environment;
minimising non-renewable resource consumption;
reducing embodied energy and total resource usage;
reducing energy in use;
minimising external pollution and environmental damage;
eliminating or minimising the use of toxins; and
minimising internal pollution and damage to health.
All these objectives put together can be expressed as the ultimate (technological) goal of sustainable architecture to restrict the impact that the buildings make on their surroundings to an unavoidable minimum. This is why 'sustainable architecture' can be referred to as 'low-impact architecture'.
Low-impact design elements, brought to the buildings in the form of, for instance, energy-saving features, can be quite appropriate and functionally adequate in performing a specified task. Furthermore, the effect can be both creative and sustainable — also in the ideological sense of the latter term. All the resources that go into a building, whether materials, fuels or the contribution by the users — including unintentional impacts such as those caused by accidents — need to be considered if sustainable architecture is to be produced. This entails passively and actively harnessing renewable energy and using materials which, in their manufacture, application and disposal, do the least possible damage to the socalled 'free' resources: water, ground, and air. Lowimpact architecture is about integrating the environment, building fabric and building technology in one package. This package should correspond to the precautionary principle calling for actions causing least possible damage and not resulting in other effects, which we may not fully appreciate at this point in time. Developing low-impact or sustainable buildings involves resolving many conflicting issues and requirements as each design decision has environmental implications. Figure 1.2.
Excerpted from ECO-RESORTS: PLANNING AND DESIGN FOR THE TROPICS by Zbigniew Bromberek Copyright © 2009 by Zbigniew Bromberek. Excerpted by permission of Architectural Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.