Events of the past few months have pointed to the clear need to ensure sustainability of communities, towns, cities and regions. The government is hard pressed to create the overall framework for a sustainable country and regions. Despite setbacks, it can be said that it is in the national agenda.
At the other end of the scale of cities, townships, and communities, private development companies have taken up the challenge of delivering homes and settings for work and play, that sustain a high quality of life for those who choose to live in these enclaves. The pioneer and erstwhile leader in this field is Ayala Land Inc. (ALI). They celebrate their 25th anniversary this year; an accomplishment built on a hundred years of its mother company’s endeavors in the Philippines, as well as half a century of real estate development experience prior to ALI in its contemporary presence.
From the post-war years of the first residential developments at Makati, the company made sure that its projects would last and continue to evolve, improve and add value to the lives of people. The pursuit of sustainability in all of ALI’s developments, operations, and the communities it affects, continues to this day to be a very important objective of the company.
Sustainability is not just a buzzword at Ayala Land. I spoke to three ALI executives, who walk the talk of green building and sustainability. They all expounded on how sustainability is entrenched in both the process, as well as, all ALI’s development products.
The first person I chatted with was Art Corpuz, ALI senior vice president and head of Urban and Regional Planning and Central Land Acquisition Division. Art is an old classmate and colleague at the UP (although he taught at the planning school and I at the College of Architecture, where we both took our undergrad degrees).
Art started by emphasizing that the relevance and success of a development is rooted in the relationships of the project with the host city or municipality or even with the larger vicinity of the region. This is especially important with respect to the mixed-use or township-type of developments ALI is best known for.
As Art explained: “How a development relates to both the spatial and economic contexts of its surrounding environment can be easily overlooked but it is, in fact, critical to the feasibility, and therefore the growth and ultimately the value of the project. This includes physical and sectoral integration—such as transit access and jobs-housing linkages—as well as disaster risk reduction. The ability of a city to cope with disasters, for example, is directly related to its economic strength and the large scale investments of ALI can help reinforce this ability.”
“The scale of its projects allows ALI to catalyze new areas for growth in ways that can enhance resiliency or sustainability, by reducing concentration in overbuilt traditional districts, for example, or by providing redundant infrastructure, alternate routes, and water retention facilities to name others. In some cases, ALI is involved directly in the organization and/or operation of transit services, such as in Bonifacio Global City. All of these might not be possible if traditional incremental and piecemeal growth takes place.”
Art explained further that sustainability beyond what is typically recognized as green development is increasingly being standardized in all ALI projects. In addition to the open spaces and parks that have been the hallmark of ALI developments, there is a consistent effort to prioritize local employment, engage with local communities, establish or improve pedestrian and transit connectivity, improve energy and water use efficiency, and reduce residual solid waste.
Art emphasized that like most responsible developers: “we take into consideration the natural features of each site and take measures to ensure that our development will have minimal impact to the surroundings.”
Projects such as Anvaya Cove and NUVALI employ the use of both soft and hard stormwater strategies to control erosion and absorb rain water. These include using native vegetation, respecting natural waterways and other techniques that help decrease run-off to other areas.
I spoke next to Dan Abando, Makati Development Corporation (MDC) President. He was quite thorough in spelling out MDC’s vital role in ALI’s crusade to create masterplanned, mixed-use and sustainable communities across the country.
Dan said that MDC follows an assiduous 16-point execution plan that guides all employees on what to do to abide by ALI’s vision of creating sustainable communities. He pointed out that the plan starts from project organization, to safety and quality control, on to waste management and risk mitigation for all projects.
He outlined the company’s sustainable practices during construction and after turnover, including the proper sourcing of materials, the use of sustainable and green building and property features, proper orientation, stormwater management, waste handling, electrical consumption. He went on to how all these features are being considered to ensure sustainability.
“Over the years we have been ensuring that we strike a balance between construction and preserving the environment,” shares Dan. “We understand that an intact ecosystem plays a big role in adding value to our developments in the long-run.”
Finally, I spoke to Joel Luna, ALI vice president and head of the Innovation and Design Group, ALI’s center for innovation about sustainable elements in design.
Joel started his spiel with how they consciously integrate open spaces and places of congregation in the design of buildings. He cited the exemplary settings of the Ayala Triangle Gardens and the linear expansiveness of Bonifacio High Street, both popular magnets for residents and visitors.
Joel also brought my attention to the fact that their approach is also used in ALI’s projects beyond Metro Manila. He boasted the successes of Ayala Alabang’s and NUVALI’s open space network and the tiered complexion of the Terraces in Ayala Center Cebu.
He went further in drawing the point that all these developments look for interconnectivity and permeability of access; making all of them, human-scaled, welcoming and pedestrian-friendly.
“We consciously provide facilities to encourage a more pedestrian-friendly environment in all our developments,” shares Joel. “We provide covered walkways and access to public transportation in all our developments. Here in Makati, for instance, you can walk from one end of Ayala Avenue to the other without having to go down the street through our elevated walk-way system.”
Joel clarified the environmental benefits of their approach, stating that all their effort at sustainable and green design and building, helps counter air pollution, reduces the heat island effect that raises temperatures in un-planned city districts, aids the absorbtion of storm water and prevents excessive run-off to mitigate any change of flooding.
To wrap up our little talk, Ayala Land’s senior architect touched on how ALI’s developments shape the market and enhances lifestyles of individuals and communities.
Joel spotlighted that ALI’s developments like the Ayala Triangle Gardens encourage a healthier and sustainable lifestyle, enticing joggers, bikers and those who enjoy more active pursuits.
He also proudly noted that ALI is a champion of the preservation and appreciation of art, as exemplified in BGC, with its art installations all around the estate. There are few spots in the metro that has anything close to this.
Joel also discussed with me the aspect of community building by encouraging social interaction among residents and workers of the area in these open public spaces and settings designed for interactions.
Such interactions, he noted, also depended on programmatic aspects of management of these spaces. He explained that scheduled events such as the Lights and Sounds show, Christmas and New Year events for Makati, BGC, Alabang and other centers are also tailor fit to the needs of their communities. They also just held the Big Bite in Marquee Mall in Pampanga, a great success!
Ultimately sustainability means building communities that not only meet the diverse needs of existing customers, residents, visitors; but also thrive for generations, offer environmentally sensitive products and design, and contribute to uplifting the lives of people in and around them.
The interviews with the three sustainability champions at ALI show that for the company, sustainability is a purposeful and consistent part of everything it does – from the choices it makes in terms of land acquisitions, to the masterplanning of the communities and townships it developed, to the design of its products that incorporate green elements to make them energy efficient, environmentally sound and truly sustainable.
But that’s not all, for Ayala Land, being sustainable is really beyond going green – it takes into consideration other sustainability principles such as community stewardship and social development. An example is the conscious engaging of the community and support for local arts and culture, personnel development, health and safety, and accountability.
To ALI, sustainability is essential. Green building and the concept of stewardship is important to the company in its pursuit of excellence in building communities and townships.