Environmental concerns should be integral part of building design

Environmental concerns should be integral part of building design
London's "Walkie-Talkie" building.

SINGAPORE - The star architect who designed London's "Walkie-Talkie" building is said to be too brilliant for his own good and that of street users who were scorched by sunlight from the edifice's highly reflective, concave facade.

Mr Rafael Vinoly most likely never reckoned the building's glare, six times brighter than average light readings in London's commercial district, would melt parts of a Jaguar parked nearby. Apparently, it did occur to the developer to do solar analysis at the design stage but the designer's vision prevailed ultimately, in a case of what a British commentator called the "dazzling power of egos when it comes to the built environment".

In fairness, architects and urban planners are generally mindful of environmental concerns and the needs of adjacent occupiers and passers-by. But in the rush to build attention-grabbing commercial structures, the use of new materials and distinctive designs can create unanticipated problems that need to be addressed by the authorities.

The Building and Construction Authority here is reviewing the range of materials being used for the external surface of buildings, with an eye on how those in the immediate environment might be affected.

Three years ago, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows of myVillage in Serangoon Gardens led to residents in the area bemoaning the excessive sunlight and heat that the building's surface reflected. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan even blogged recently about a resident who had to wear sunglasses in his own home at certain times because of the glare from the metal roofs of adjacent buildings.

Developers seeking impactful designs should also consider the impact of materials picked and elaborate structures envisaged. Environmental and social concerns should not be an afterthought but an integral part of the planning process, so their grand creations, like Hong Kong's International Commerce Centre, do not wind up being a talking point for all the wrong reasons.


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