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Future-proofing BUIDeA through 360° Systemic Thinking

by Daphne Advincula, BS Architecture 4A
In its effort to deliver the best service to the whole organization and to provide timely, engaging opportunities and more tangible results for the improvement and advancement of the architecture profession, the United Architects of the Philippines Professional Development Commission conducted the seminar program UAP Academy on Wheels: A Moving Discourse on Architecture and the Practice, with a resource speaker all the way from Singapore, Ar. Joan De Leon-Tabinas shared her expertise and knowledge about 360° Systemic Thinking: Core of Sustainability, held at the Bicol University Institute of Design and Architecture (BUIDea) on February 16, 2023. 

This activity is also part of the UAP Area B Conference of Architects, dubbed as BUNYOG 2.0, held at the Legazpi City Convention Center. The goal of the program is to future-proof every Filipino architect and the profession in general. Also, to empower aspiring future Filipino architects and expand specialized knowledge in the profession to ensure up-to-date knowledge and skills, by conducting training and seminars around the country. Universities located in the provinces and far-flung areas are the priority areas of the said program. Resource speaker, Ar. Joan De Leon-Tabinas is an Architect, Urban designer, Sustainability Strategist, and Systems Thinker based in Singapore. She authored CORE 360° Systemic Thinking, a holistic approach to architecture and the built environment that could bring several constructive solutions to the challenges arising across the globe. She highlighted in her talk that, in order to create a dynamic and robust solution for the promotion of a sustainable, healthy, inclusive, and resilient environment; biodiversity, water, energy, food, public space, materials and construction methodology, and waste must be woven together. This is to look at these things together and analyze their relationship patterns from the perspective of the whole system and its interconnected subsystems.

The recently conducted seminar was attended by 162 participants, as per registration, coming from the faculty, 4th-year, and 3rd-year students of BUIDeA, headed by its Dean, Ar. Leo A. Del Rosario. The seminar challenged the participants, specifically the students as future built environment professionals, to look beyond green building construction and strategies by learning the need to design within the context of the area through the balanced use of technologically driven systems, passive systems, and known vernacular solutions. Designing within the context of the area ensures that buildings are made to complement the environment surrounding them and to support the local community. Some of the key takeaways noted from the seminar are the following. 

 

Systemic Thinking

 

Based on the talk given by the resource speaker, this term serves as the core of sustainability. It is an approach to solving problems in which each input is viewed as a component of a larger, interconnected whole. As climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, poor health, and poverty become the consequences of the growing and inefficient use of resources that are significantly affecting people’s lives today, designing sustainable environments in the current context of climate change and ecological awareness must be understood by everyone as a shared responsibility. 

To define sustainability, it is the application of the best practices in architecture to optimize the performance of buildings to minimize their impact on the environment. With this, the role of architects becomes even more critical in providing responsible and relevant design for the built environment. 

In achieving sustainable development, a fundamental change in the way things are used, made, and done, including cradle-to-cradle or 360° Systemic Thinking processes, which had been the main focus of the talk, is necessary. 

 

Educate. Engage. Execute

 

These three words were of great importance when the concept of sustainability was being talked about. Because no matter how professionals in the field advocate and educate people, most specifically aspiring students of the profession, about the importance of sustainability, if the young aspiring architects are not part of it or if they do not engage themselves in that special and significant journey, then achieving the goal of having a sustainable life and world will be hard or cannot happen at all. 

In addition, no matter how hard they study or how long they are guided by this concept, if they do not do or execute what they have been studying or working on, even on a small scale, then nothing will change. A vision will die without proper execution, similar to their dreams and aspirations for the betterment of the living environment; therefore, these aspiring architects should live and act on it to continue the shared vision of the professionals who have been in the field for years already.

 

Bridge the natural resources through our designs 

 

Consequences associated with the separation created by isolating designs have been established over the centuries. The poorly conceived design separates urban areas from the environment and has contributed to seeing nature as isolated from people. Yet reviving people’s bond with nature is currently an architectural challenge, and urban design strategies are being implemented to address this issue. 

With nature providing abundant resources and benefits to mankind, it is time for architects, planners, and other professionals in the built environment to reshape their thinking and encourage and promote designs that highlight the environment in the built spaces. 

Since architects have control over the built environment, they can change the way buildings and cities are designed to connect people to nature rather than disconnect from it. Essentially, they bridge the gap between natural resources through their design by doing things in much more efficient ways and using far fewer resources.

 

Sustainability is NOT a choice; it must be part of the norm

 

The speaker strongly believes that sustainability should be holistic and part of the norm rather than a choice. This phrase has been engraved in the minds of many since the said talk because it sparks the question: what could they possibly do today that their future selves would be thankful for? 

The impact of sustainability would be less if the integration of the concept only happened when it was suddenly remembered, when the concept wanted to be realized only in a particular project, or just for the benefit of saying that sustainability was included in the design. Doing that would make the concept of sustainability beneficial only for that specific project but not for the whole interconnected system. 

Sustainability as part of the norm means introducing the concept, even at the smallest scale of efforts, in a consistent and holistic manner in everything that architects and these aspiring architects do. By doing so, a sustainable life and world in the succeeding years are achievable. 

People need to be part of the solution and be the change to make sustainability the norm in the world. In this manner, it will have a big impact on their and the world’s future. 

This seminar serves as a driving force for students to reflect on and explore crucial knowledge to better understand the importance of sustainability and its deeper meaning and application in the context of architecture and the design of the built environment. As future architects, aspiring students must be part of the system that promotes and understands the sustainability movement. Moreover, introducing and being guided by systemic thinking while finishing their academic degree would be beneficial for the aspiring future Filipino Architects of the Institution.

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