Water Solutions

Environmental Architecture  

What is it Environmental Architecture?

The small island environment of Maldives poses unique challenges when it comes to development, whether it be resorts, hotels, marinas or others. Environmental Architecture is the design and placing of infrastructures to suit the surrounding environment so that it will be both environmentally feasible and sustainable. It is about placing the different architectural elements in the optimal location in an island environment.
Our environmental architecture service is a vital element when developing a master plan for any coastal development. Most importantly, for resort development projects, environmental architecture plays a significant role in designing and placing structures. Due to the unique geography and sensitive and fragile environment of Maldives, even the best architects lack this information, which can lead to huge cost savings in the implementation stage.

With more than seven years of environmental data from the Maldives, we have provided practical examples and solutions to architects and master planners that is environmentally sustainable.

Why Environmental Architecture?

You may be wondering why you need to invest on this when thousands of dollars are spent on Architects.
The answer is very simple. There are some things that even the best architects cannot “Design, Do or Implement” in an island environment. Developers, planners, architects and engineers must accept this principle in order to really appreciate this.

Architects and master planners can design buildings, their shape, the interiors and so on, but they cannot decide on where these are located in an island. This is where we come in and our approach is to identify the “Do’s and Don’t’s” to the architects so that costly mistakes can be avoided in the planning stage.
The financial and environmental burden of not incorporating the environmental elements in the design stage of any project can be very high and therefore, our approach and methodology is to work with the architects and engineers at the very early stage of any project and advise them accordingly.
Throughout the Maldives, you can see the consequences of not incorporating the environmental architectural elements in many resorts that has become a burden for them. 

What are some examples of environmental architecture?

Example 1: Locating the jetties in the right place.

Why it is important: When developing a resort, you need to locate the jetties in their optimal location. Boats need to be able to use the jetties throughout the year in order to smoothly operate the resort. If the jetty is placed at the wrong location, during certain months of the year, they cannot be used due to unfavorable environmental conditions (like strong winds, waves and in rough weather).

Consequences to the developer: The developer or the operator has to pay the ultimate price for this, as the jetties cannot be moved after it is constructed and the entire resort operation is affected on a day to day basis. As a result, daily operations becomes a complex and difficult task.

Solution: Architects can design the jetty, but they cannot determine the optimal location and orientation with regard to an island. Every island is different and many factors such as the reef area, the shape of island, the location of the island in the Atoll and many more are factors that are used to determine the best location. Unfortunately, Architects and Engineers are not able to provide this and only an environmental architect can advise this.

Example 2: Construction of a swimming pool on the beach

Why it is important: Any structure that is built on the beach or close to the beach need to be designed in a specific way. Most importantly, there are certain sensitive areas around the island where such structures cannot be located. Unfortunately, this could be the most beautiful location in an island and often, Architects are motivated to design such structures incorporating the visual factors of the surrounding. Unfortunately, architects are not aware of the environmental consequences and this is the biggest challenge.

Consequences to the developer: The beach around an island is continuously in motion. Any structures build on the beach or close to the beach will affect the movement of beach and eventually erosion will occur in certain areas as a result of it. The result would be the total loss of beach in some areas, which would be a huge burden for the resort, both financially and visually. Rooms in eroding areas are difficult to sell and rehabilitation of the beach is a costly exercise. On a long term, the ongoing cost of rehabilitation would be costly and a burden.

Solution: Architects can design the swimming pool, but they cannot determine the optimal location nor identify critical areas to avoid. Only an environmental architect can advise this.
If these locations are identified in the early stage, the entire design of the island can be changed, which is almost impossible later. 

Illustration of the importance of environmental architecture
A typical resort development concept in and around the island. Water villas and a swimming pool are located without considering the beach movement. Notice the beautiful beach all around the island.
After few months, the beach moves towards the water villas and erosion takes place near the swimming pool and from other areas. This situation could have been avoided at the design stage. Once this occurs, it is very difficult to reverse and the cost is very high.