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Vitruvius, a Roman author, architect, and engineer who lived during the 1st century B.C., came up with la triade vitruviana (the Vitruvian triad). He said that the three fundamental elements of architecture are firmitas (stability), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty)—which means that a structure has to be beautiful, functional, and stable or, when applied to our present context, economically and ecologically sound.

What he said long ago is still very much relevant today. I believe that this standard can also be used to determine whether a structural design is smart or not. Generally, I think that a design can be called smart when it is able to meet the needs for which it has been created—whether it is a building, a city, or a cup designed for drinking.

But as far as buildings are concerned, the list of requirements grows a little longer, mainly in consideration of climate impact. A smart design needs to be able to deliver the best results while using fewer resources in both the design and construction stages, as well as during the lifespan of the building. Maintaining the structure has to be an ecologically friendly process.

Using smart design to build architectural structures means that the building can provide a healthy environment for its occupants while having the capability to reduce consumption of water and energy, recycle water, reduce waste, and produce energy.

When smart design is applied to city planning and urban design, you get a healthy and accessible environment that is made even more efficient with the use of technology and tools for the benefit of its citizens. For example, residents are able to reduce the use of their cars and are able to enjoy plenty of green open spaces.

Every government must invest time and resources in proper city planning as they take into consideration the real needs of their citizens, which are really pretty basic: healthy air, accessibility to important destinations like schools and hospitals, access to green areas, and opportunities to have healthy social interactions.

In my travels across Asia, I have seen that countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Vietnam were able to give appropriate attention to the creation of green open spaces. The Philippines can look at best practices from other nations as it gains momentum in building green parks, enhancing public transport, and reducing traffic and pollution.

Having healthy and green working and living areas is becoming a basic need for people at this time. And as we move through and beyond this pandemic, this basic need is going to become a “non-negotiable” for most people. Therefore, the Philippines will do well to focus on designing green buildings and healthy spaces. I believe this spells the difference between good and bad planning, between bad architecture and smart design.

I would like to invite you to Like, Follow, and Share my online spaces and content on Facebook and LinkedIn (Architect Romolo V. Nati), and on Twitter (@romolonati).

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