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Lowering the Temperature
Ed Baker
17th June 2021

Envisioned as the Philippine’s first smart, resilient and green metropolis, New Clark City is trailblazing a new approach to sustainable urban design.

Established on a former US army base to the north of the capital Manila, the city is seeking to set a new benchmark in terms of addressing the growing environmental problems caused by climate change while also designing in a resilience to natural disasters that often beset this region.

As a completely new settlement, New Clark City provides a unique opportunity to showcase exemplar sustainable urban planning approaches that seek to not only reduce carbon emissions but also to create cooler spaces and places in our rapidly heating cities.

According to the Cool Coalition, an international multi-stakeholder network committed to exploring more sustainable ways of cooling our cities, almost a third of the world’s population currently face dangerously hot temperatures for at least 20 days of the year.

A commitment to renewable energy sources in New Clark City will make a huge contribution to reducing the carbon load when it comes to cooling indoor spaces, supported further by a holistic approach that includes enhancing the availability of public space, encouraging the non-motorised modes of transport and the creation of mixed-use and inclusive developments.

As part of the Global Future Cities Programme, on which we are a delivery partner in a consortium led by Mott MacDonald, we are currently undertaking three separate interventions in New Clark City as part of an integrated sustainability strategy for the city.

Being a new city, there an opportunity to integrate nature-based design solutions from the start so it becomes ingrained in the future DNA of the city rather than becoming retro-fitted as an afterthought.

Aerial view of New Clark City

One of the projects is the development of a city-wide open space strategy, at the heart of which is the design of a new Central Park, a new 44 Ha green space that will become one of the largest public parks to be built in the Philippines for more than half a century and one of the largest urban parks in the country.

Building on our experience in other cities across the world, where overcoming the challenges of rising urban temperatures is as relevant today in London as it is in Asia or the Middle East, our focus was on creating a quality of life for residents, visitors and workers in this new community with an emphasis on mitigating the extreme temperatures in the region.

Our approach to the Central Park project identifies a series of key design goals from identity to ease of maintenance but one of the most important drivers focuses on how to maintain and improve comfort levels for users, particularly during the hotter summer months.

In the hot and humid Philippines’ climate, providing comfortable outdoor micro-climates is critical to creating lively and vibrant open spaces. As in many of the hottest cities around the world, most plazas and parks are used in the early morning and or in the late afternoon and evenings when the sun is less of a factor.

Filipinos have a particular love of shade due to their own climate experience and the local characteristic that any successful open space must achieve is that it must be ‘maaliwalas’, meaning breezy yet shaded, comfortable, quiet and relaxing.

Shady play area

To achieve this, our design has focused on a combination of a range of components that can positively influence microclimate and help extend the times that the park can be used including sun and shade, wind, water, vegetation and physical shade structures.

The park itself forms part of a primary network of interconnected city canals and river channels that create a natural ‘green-blue’ grid across the city that not only provide attractive and safe recreational open space for the community but also perform an important environmental and resilience role as part of a wider management strategy, helping to reduce the urban heat island effect and creating biodiversity corridors and habitats.

Other climate specific design considerations include providing shade on pedestrian walkways with physical structures and green planting, creating breeze corridors which allow breeze flow through open spaces and identifying cool spots within the park.

Our brief for Central Park is to create a facility that showcases the value of enhancing public space provision in planned cities that is not only accessible and green but most importantly, replicable in other cities across the Philippines and ultimately across other countries in the region.

The importance of making cities more liveable and ultimately more sustainable will be one of the great challenges of the post pandemic era and increasingly we will see urban design strategies that are underpinned by a commitment to high quality climate-responsive public spaces that bring down the temperature and provide space for the population to breathe.