Philippines unveils first 'green' project

14 Mar 2011

WAN chats to Chad Oppenheim, a key player in green design in the Philippines

To hear it from Chad Oppenheim, an up and coming Miami-based designer with an impressive list of projects around the globe, he was destined to be ‘green’ from the get go. As a child growing up in New Jersey, Oppenheim took a keen interest in just about everything that had to do with nature. In fact, his parents were among the early pioneers of the energy conservation movement in the 1970s, having had plans drawn up to retrofit their home with what then were emerging technologies in solar and wind energy. So, naturally, when he established his own practice, now 35 strong, working with nature was high on the agenda.

At first glance, Oppenheim’s projects seem to have much in common with the new architecture of the day - sleek, cutting edge, modernistic works conceived by digital tools. But in many ways they are as much ‘old school’ as they are new, embracing low-tech, time honoured principals of designing with nature that harken back to ancient times. A recent residential project in Costa Rica, which is carved out of the rocks like the early dwellings of Petra and a pioneering mixed use project for the Philippines that will establish that country’s standard for green design much as LEED did for the United States, are two recent projects in Oppenheim’s office where doing a lot with a little is proving to reap big rewards. Oppenheim’s approach of a making a modest intervention on the land not only makes sense but can also be restorative by bringing a damaged environment back from the edge.

Oppenheim’s project in the Philippines, a new mixed-use tower designed for the Net Group, will be the first certified green project in the country. It is also a test project for the country’s recently created Philippine Green Building Council (PHILGBC) and its new rating system BERDE (Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence) which Oppenheim helped create. But most significantly, the project will set the tone as to what will be built in the Philippines in the future and in doing so it is a potential game changer and dream come true for Oppenheim. "Realising that if all (projects) follow this benchmark, our work will pioneer the future creation of a country's sustainable, high-design urban landscape fulfills what our firm looks to do for around the world,” said Oppenheim.

Net Lima consists of three towers, ranging from 24 to 40 storeys, built atop a six-level above-grade parking garage. While simple in form it was complex to design and also to build - as each tower is rotated on its base to take advantage of the local climatic conditions and as each will be in a single phase rather then all together. It’s most defining energy savings feature is its high performance, glass curtain wall, which is wrapped with an aluminum brise-soliel. These screens form oversails that define the form of the towers all of which sharply point to the sky. “When completed, Net Lima will look radically different from any other building in the Philippines”, said Raymond Rufino, Executive Vice President of The Net Group.

Situated in the heart of the Philippines’ business district, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, the 1,550,000 sq ft mixed-use complex, is now in the design phase for the second tower and is slated for completion in 2014.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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