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Balancing sound architecture and quality of environment, 20th September 2016

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The first APM Hong Kong branch event after the Summer break was delivered by Dr Merrin Pearse with the title of “Balancing sound architecture and quality of environment”. An exploration on integrated approaches to development in order to create more livable spaces and happier stakeholders in the short and long term.

Dr Merrin Pearse is a sustainability strategist with an interesting background. From geodetic surveying and consultancy, working with governments he landed in the environmental sector in Hong Kong. After a number of roles he turned into a sustainability consultant working with organisations to improve the way they work and the products they deliver with regards to sustainability. 

The presentation started with an interpretation check on the terms balancing, sound architecture and quality of environment. With balancing, are we looking at the different attributes and needs of stakeholders? Does sound architecture reflects those needs in the materials used, the design applied? For example, curbstones at crossings for baby prams? Looking at the quality of environment, elements that came up included air quality, noise levels, view, as well as the quality of workmanship.

Continuing on we looked at some good examples, like the way Wellington City in New Zealand has developed a part of its city centre. Good use of (recycled) and reclaimed materials, brilliant use of space for different stakeholder groups and high level of fit for purpose and usability. The setup hid some noise creators, allowed for good transportation and provided a nice environment to be outside. In contrast to a project at a Fiji Resort which was started, it didn’t use the environment and negatively impacted the livelihood of people around it. The project was stopped at a later stage though leaving a negative sustained impact to the environment and community.

A tool that can be used to assess the impact is the Natural Step and has 4 principles to look at the impact a project has with regards to materials coming out of/or getting into the ground, substances that are produced, degradation of the physical surroundings as well as an impact on the society. More to be found here

During your APM related training you learned about Maslow and other models. Determining Human Needs can be done using the Manfred Max-Neef model, which looks into 9 dimensions over 5 categories. Details can be found here

This segued into looking at Hong Kong developments and how human needs are met including areas of living and moving around the city. Most houses for example are not really insulated making them hot in summer and cold in winter. Resulting in high energy consumption for air conditioners or heaters. From there the presentation went to refuse handling practices in Hong Kong. Some cases showing the disconnection between government department, industry and society passed the revue. 

An interesting case was around waste management and processing, including a recently opened sewerage sludge treatment facility which uses the generated heat for warming swimming pools and for electricity generation. Addressing waste management, prevention and recycling both at upstream and downstream levels are of key importance in Hong Kong given their heavy reliance on landfills.

So during the evening we picked up a few new models to work with and learned that even though collaborative and integrated approaches look easy on paper, the reality seems different. It requires people to look across their organisational borders and make an effort to deliver holistic design that addresses the needs of multiple stakeholders.


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