Green building expert ITPI to builders: adopt ‘biomimicry’ to build smarter, sustainable cities

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Adopting the principle of biomimicry and undertaking performance-based design strategies — these are the keys to building sustainably in an environmentally challenged world.

That was the advice of an Italian architect and expert on green building and sustainable agriculture to builders, urban planners, government officials and various other advocates of sustainable development who attended the 2013 International Conference on Smarter Cities held last November 14 to 15 at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.

“By studying the process behind the creation of natural living structures, we are able to find patterns, which transform into design models needed to define architectural solutions,” said architect Romolo V. Nati, Executive Chairman and CEO of the ITALPINAS Euro Asian Design and Eco-Development Corporation (ITPI).

ITPI is a young developer that specializes in the design and development of sustainable buildings. Formed by Nati in 2009 in partnership with Filipino lawyer Jojo Leviste, ITPI invests most of its resources into an in-house research and design (R&D) department that studies sustainable architecture, as well as building in extreme conditions and challenging environments. ITPI is an affiliate of the renewable energy firm Constellation Energy Corp.


Adopting biomimicry — or the intersection of biology and technology — allows architects and builders to put up buildings that use water, energy and other resources efficiently, Nati said, even as he notes that the concept isn’t new and has long been used by the global defense industry.

Nati’s advice was part of his presentation titled “Eco-logic Architecture: Conceptualizing Buildings Differently,” which was given during one of five presentations under the theme Smarter Economy. The presentations were given during parallel sessions on the second day of the conference.

“Becoming sustainable requires a change in perspective,” Nati said. “We need to move from too much reliance on technology and from an inability to more adaptation to the local environment.”

The architect said this is needed because cities occupy only two percent of the world’s land mass but these account for 70 percent of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Nati noted: “Right now air conditioning in buildings worldwide consumes 1 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and by 2050, global consumption of energy for cooling could explode tenfold.”

“Increased CO2 emissions lead to increased energy consumption, which lead to climate change and environmental degradation,” he warned.

He said the solution was to follow nature and adapt more to the local environment by using local material and tapping local know-how when putting up buildings or other developments. He also advised sourcing power locally. “These wouldn’t only be a sustainable practice, but would also lower power requirements, as well as building and maintenance costs,” Nati said.

Performance-based strategies

Nati also recommended that architects and developers use the performance-based strategies that his company employs.

These include sunlight angle calculations for spatial planning optimization, wind analysis for spatial planning optimization and selective daylight internal computation for spatial planning optimization — all done by specialized software.

Organized by the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning, the 2013 International Conference on Smarter Cities aimed to begin the public discourse on creating smarter cities in a world beset by overpopulation, rapid population growth, dwindling resources, widespread pollution, climate change and unrestrained urbanization.

The conference brought together builders, developers, engineers, planners and advocates of smart cities from across the world, who shared the ways that smarter technologies can be leveraged to improve the quality of life in cities.

Parallel sessions on six different main themes were held on the second day of the Conference:

  • Smarter Governance
  • Smarter Economy
  • Smarter Mobility
  • Smarter Environment
  • Smarter Planning and Design and
  • Smarter People and Living

Some of the more interesting presentations during the conference were:

  • “Project NOAH: Importance of Technology in Mitigating Hazards” by Mahar A. Lagmay of the UP- National Institute of Geological Sciences for Smarter Governance.
  • “Biofied Space Design – Toward Future Architectural Material, Energy and Integrated Information” by Akiko Watanabe of the Tokyo Denki University, Japan and “Smarter Urban Greening: The Philippine Context” by Arch. Paulo Alcazaren of PGAA Creative Design, Philippines / Singapore and “Landscape Architecture Trends in the Philippines: Ecological Planning as an Approach to the Sustainable Development of Disaster-Prone Sites” by Mary Ann Espina of the UP College of Architecture for Smarter Planning and Design.
  • “Smarter Money for Smarter Cities” by Felix Fuders of the Universidad Austral de Chile for Smarter Economy
  • “Urban Development and Groundwater Management in Asian Cities” by Karen Ann B. Jago-on, UP-SURP and “Planning City Extensions: An Approach to Achieving Sustainable Urban Development” by Christopher Rollo of the United Nations – Human Settlements Programme, Philippines for Smarter Environment
  • “DOST’s Smarter Health Care Program” by Jaime C. Montoya, Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development for Smarter People and Living