Is sustainable architecture still sustainable if it destroys the environment in the process?
Engr. Slater Young’s new project, The Rise of Monterazzas at the Guadalupe neighborhood in Cebu City, has been making a buzz throughout the internet because of its Banaue Rice Terraces-inspired design.
Instead of the usual high-rise building, this project will be pushed back to follow the flow of the mountain, just like how the Philippine heritage site, Banaue Rice Terraces, looks like.
In addition, the project incorporated an irrigation system similar to farms since they would collect rainwater and store it in a tank below the building. It also has a drip irrigation system to make the gardens maintenance-free.
Furthermore, in a video regarding the project, Young stated that the design innovations and their incorporation of gardens and greens throughout the building could contribute to the environment, “We are able to give back to the mountain about 1 hectare of greenery,” the engineer stated. He also stated in the video that in about 2-3 years, these plants and trees will grow and the scenery will be greener.
But, even if the project gives back a hectare of greenery, will this compensate for the huge undisclosed land area the project will take? This was not specified in the video Young made, and this information is also not easily accessible to the public on the Internet. However, the model he has shown in his video about the project shows that the project uses up an entire mountainside.
It was also not stated whether or not the plants they would use for the project would be coming from the forest, newly planted plants, or entirely different plants. The number of rainwater that can be stored by their irrigation system was also not specified by Young anywhere in the video.
The lack of evidence and assurance that the project truly is as sustainable as it claims to be raises eyebrows from several citizens and environmentalists.
The site is to be built in Monterazzas de Cebu, which had its development permit revoked twice by the Cebu City government, once in 2008 and another in 2011, through a cease and desist order because their developments have a high possibility of causing disasters such as landslides to the mountains that they are situated in as well as increasing flooding disasters to the residents in lower lands.
In addition to that, the loss of the forest in the mountainside would pose several problems to the city since deforestation causes floods and landslides. This, in turn, could make the flooding problem in Cebu City even worse. According to SunStar, flooding in Metro Cebu has worsened as the years go by, especially now in 2023.
However, there are several arguments online stating that Engr. Slater Young is a professional and he knows what he is doing, and that the said project is also approved, which means that it has passed several tests from architecture experts.
But, this mindset is blind to the issues happening in our environment. There are several passed projects in our country that are detrimental to our environment; just because it got a permit does not mean that it is environmentally friendly. Two examples of projects that pose a threat to the environment but still continue their operations are the Kaliwa Dam and the Dolomite Beach.
According to a petition raised in Change.org, Kaliwa Dam “will destroy the biodiversity and habitat of 126 species in 300 hectares of the Sierra Madre, submerge 291 hectares of forests, and endanger 100,000 residents downstream with the risk of massive flooding.” And according to the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, the Dolomite Beach can also “disturb the habitats of marine animals and plants by potentially burying them, lowering the oxygen in the seawater, and blocking their access to sunlight.” These two projects are approved by the government with permits but are still harmful to the environment.
The project overall is unique with several innovative features and an eye-catching design, but its claims to be environmentally friendly and sustainable while destroying the environment and ecosystem it will be built on while worsening Cebu City’s flood problem is truly ironic.
But one thing is for sure: such a large-scale project would surely leave a footprint in the country, but whether this footprint is positive or carbonated is up to you. (originally published in ashsbluebridge.wixsite.com)
Aeon Aexza Bustillo is a contributor of Davao Today, currently the Editor-in-Chief of The Blue Bridge, the official student publication of Ateneo de Davao Senior High School.architecture, Cebu City, environment, slater young