A Resilient and Healthy Bonifacio Global City (BGC) Part 1 of 3 – Healthy Buildings and Places

BONIFACIO GLOBAL CITY, Metro Manila – How do you plan for the future of a city like the masterplanned community of Bonifacio Global City? Unlike other urban areas in metro manila, Bonifacio Global City or BGC or the Fort as it is more fondly called is “like an oasis” in an endless dessert of urban sprawl, quipped by Mr. Carlos Villaraza, President of GEOSEED (Geohazards Engineers) and Seismic Engineers. Fortunately, there are concerned citizens both local and foreign who care for the sustainable development of not only BGC but also other urban enclaves. Gathered together by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Philippines; recently concluded the “Resilient and Healthy BGC” Community Workshop at Net One Center, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City last July 31, 2015.  The purpose of the workshop was to involve BGC stakeholders from the business, admin, and residential community on matters regarding the health and resilience of the city. Presentations from key experts in the fields of architecture, engineering, urban planning, environmental sciences, transportation, real estate, civil society, arts, academia, and disaster preparedness were shown to at least 70 individuals present during the workshop. The workshop was split into three segments throughout the day, starting with Part 1 Healthy Buildings and Places, followed by Part 2 presentations for Resiliency and the Earthquake Emergecny Fund, and last with Part 3 Communications During Disasters and Mapping for Emergencies. Mr. Raymond Rufino, Net Group President and Chairman of the Philippine Green Building Council & ULI Philippines, enthusiastically opened the program by giving a brief background on ULI and the 20,000 USD grant awarded to ULI Philippines for an Urban Innovation Grant for its project A Resilient and Healthy BGC Initiative.

The Urban Land Institute is a global non-profit education and research institute supported by its members. Founded in 1936, the institute now have more than 32,000 members worldwide, representing the entire spectrum of land use and real estate development disciplines working in private enterprise and public service. As a multidisciplinary real estate forum, ULI facilitates an open exchange of ideas, information, and experience among industry leaders and policy makers dedicated to creating better places….

The Urban Innovation Grant is given to projects that recognize innovative public-private partnerships and promote the responsible use of land in building healthy, resilient, and thriving communities worldwide.

(source: ULI PH briefing document)


ULI as summed up in a short video showcasing its work, vision, and mission is “developing for humanity”. Promoting health is a vital component of sustainable city development as captured by promoting active mobility and world green building standards. Mr. Rufino added, that for mega cities like Metro Manila and new central business districts like BGC to sustain its growth and development, it should follow the recommendations outlined from ULI Global’s report on the Ten Principles for Sustainable Development of Metro Manila’s Urban Core. If you want to know more about this, click here. The recommendations were “based on a collaborative approach which canvassed the views of a wide variety of stakeholders through interviews, workshops and focus-group discussions.” (excerpt taken from ULI PH FB page).

The occasion was also ripe to share the Building Healthy Places Toolkit – Strategies for Enhancing Health in the Built Environment. The document accessible online contains 21 recommendations, applications, and project cases on how to apply the toolkit divided into three categories (Physical Activity, Food & Water, and Environment). The following are some of those recommendations that could be applied to Metro Manila:

  1. Physical Activity – Build Play Spaces for Children.
  2. Food & Water – Host a Farmer’s Market.
  3. Environment – Increase access to nature.

This brings us to building healthy communities by looking through the realities of our city life. And it is as grim as we perceive it to be. According to a World Health Organization study, the Philippines fatality rate for pedestrians is at 51%. This means that 1 out of 2 times we walk down the street, could be our last. The problem is in the planning, design, and behavioral paradigm of our cities from enthroning the motorized transport, especially the Car as king of the road instead of the vulnerable pedestrian. Not only does this endanger the health and lives of people but it also causes stresses in the traffic network of our highly congested roads. Karmi Palafox, Senior Urban Planner & Managing Partner of Palafox Associates added in her presentation interesting statistics; to paraphrase:

only 2% of Filipinos in Metro Manila own cars that uses 90% of road space especially on peak hours…which means that the other 98% of the citizens utilize only 10% of road space through various means of transportation from rail, bus, jeepney etc.

As more people migrate to Metro Manila around 1,500 people per day, it is now imperative to rethink the urban space from an exclusive driving right for a few to a general welfare access paradigm on the street by planning for a 1/3 for each space for People, Vehicles, and Landscape. This perspective on urban design from Palafox Associates gives back the basic thinking of planning cities for people. Planning with the stakeholders is a process that should be advocated for a more comprehensive and inclusive plan.

A good example of involving the community in the planning process and promoting community welfare was attributed to the #CityResolve program of the Toronto Planning Office. The office wanted to promote personal resolutions and recommendations from citizens on how to make their city a better place to live in through Twitter. In example, some resolved to use the bike more, others to use the car less often and walk, etc. ULI Philippines in turn captured similar resolutions from select participants during the workshop who reside in BGC through i-resolve videos. Which is a good initiative if you think about it? We all make new years resolution for ourselves, why not make one for your city?

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