Thursday, February 22, 2018

Building it the ‘green’ way


showpiece: The St Lucia Financial Centre, a project by Fojo Design and Develop headed by David Fojo.

Mark Fraser

Sustainable architecture is a rapidly growing trend in the world but when it comes to the Caribbean and particularly Trinidad and Tobago green architecture is lagging behind world standards.

Award-winning architecture firm, Fojo Design and Develop, is taking sustainability to a whole new level with a strong belief in the principles of sustainable design.

Fojo Design and Develop won the Excellence in Service Awards 2013 for its commitment in serving the Caribbean through its environmentally responsible “green design” architecture.

The services sector champion is headed by architect, builder and developer, David Fojo, who is one of the leading green and healthy building experts in the Caribbean, having been practising green architecture for more than 30 years.

Fojo’s success in exporting its professional services in “green design” has placed his company in the spotlight as one of the Caribbean’s sought-after green architecture providers.

A seven-storey building in St Lucia which is touted to be one of the greenest office buildings in St Lucia, built under guidelines from the US Green Building Council, is being designed by Fojo Design and Develop.

The green building, which is near to completion, will house various government ministries including the St Lucia prime minister’s office.

According to Fojo, the holder of a Master’s of Environmental Design degree, there is an urgent need for environmentally responsible design.

Fojo said poorly designed buildings emit more carbon dioxide and other pollutants on a larger scale into the environment than any other industry.

He said: “There is an urgent need for the building industry to be green. The building industry is the world number one polluter and it has the largest impact on the environment.

“We can’t continue to build the same old buildings because we are destroying the planet. The negative changes in the environment—including global warming, pollution, climate change and rapid species extinction—is all to a significant degree because of the building industry so we have to take it seriously for the survival of the planet.

“If we are going the way we are going things will become worse. Everyone in the building environment need to take serious action now.”

Fojo added. “We are at the cutting edge of architecture and green building and it seems hard to get the public to understand and appreciate the value of it.

“We have been providing professional services outside of T&T over the last few years. We have done work in seven countries which is a bit unusual—very few architects in T&T that work in so many countries. We were more successful in exporting our professional services. Designing green buildings is something near and dear to my heart.”

Fojo said when a building has been designed intelligently it can support and encourage good health in its occupants. He noted there should be no mould, mildew or fungus in the air which is a particular problem in Trinidad and Tobago.

He said buildings should be designed so that no surface is ever chronically moist.

He said: “The building industry also has a very big impact on our health than most people know. There are things to take into consideration like air quality. We as architects can design buildings that have very good air quality. Your oxygen must be free of toxins.

“When you breathe healthy air you are not tired by the end of the day. When you breath stale air with too much carbon dioxide or mould and mildew which is a huge thing in T&T because the air is too moist causing mould and mildew to grow in the ducts and carpeting and curtains in the office which can cause you to become lethargic during the day.

“Light quality is another concern. If you are using natural lighting people perform well and are usually happier. If you don’t have proper day lighting it means that your office is in a little corner somewhere with artificial lighting which is in many instances is too dark.

“If the quality of the light is not very good then it means that you don’t see as well; you don’t perform as well and sometimes you feel a sense of malaise and you don’t feel upbeat. These symptoms could be because of bad air and bad lighting.

“Once your space is well-proportioned using sacred geometry (proportions of nature) using the proportions and the mathematics of nature in buildings which makes you feel good in the building. So when you are in a building that is well designed with the perfect balance of light and air quality and is beautiful then what happens is you feel good.

“When all those things are in place the people are much more productive and the company is much more profitable.”

Fojo said water quality and electromagnetic pollution are also major concerns.

Fojo said the Government’s fuel subsidy is a threat to the green building industry in T&T.

He said: “We have a fuel subsidy in place in T&T and that sounds like a nice idea but in truth and in fact it is actually killing the green building industry. Because what’s happening is that they subsidise the fuel, making it cheap for you to build scrappy buildings and therefore it doesn’t make financial sense and if it doesn’t make financial sense we are destroying the environment and the green building industry in T&T. What we need to do is pay the real cost of fuel. Sometimes we do a green building for the sake of the planet, for your health and the health of your children.

“This country still has to go a long way. We are ten to 15 years behind the rest of the world. First World countries don’t have fuel subsidies. The vast majority of the world is making great strides and they are actually building buildings using net zero which means that the building is actually making more energy than they consume and that’s the idea for your building to be self-sufficient.

“There is so much technology now on the site itself we can make all the energy that the building needs. We don’t have to have transmission lines and power failure, so that is the future net zero but we are further from net zero than any other country in the world because of the fuel subsidy.”

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