The majority of the Galapagos Islands are protected with just 3% of land reserved for farming and housing. In recent years, the area of developed land has increased due to the thriving tourist industry. This poses a problem because there is a lack of clean energy, water and construction materials on the Islands, all of which are essential to build new infrastructure. Due to these restrictions, it could be said that the traditional building designs from the mainland are not appropriate in Galapagos. One solution to these issues is sustainable design. Sustainable design is the philosophy of designing buildings that are as self-sufficient as possible in all capacities, including water use and energy generation.
Currently the main energy source is diesel generators, however these are both noisy and expensive. Located on the equator the islands receive plenty of sunlight, ideal for generating electricity using photovoltaic solar panels. These are already quite common on the newer hotels, but there is another less well known way of using the sun’s rays. Solar collectors use panels to heat the water which flows through them, that can be directly used by the hotel. The other main alternative energy source is wind energy and this can be incorporated with insulation and using appliances with high level energy rating to increase energy efficiency. The use of shade and maximising natural air flow are cheap options that can easily be achieved using sustainable design.
In terms of building construction there should be as little impact on the environment as possible from extraction of materials, through the life of the building to its end of life. For example, concrete is not recyclable, but steel can be so could be reused when a building is set to be demolished. There are a few mines on the islands for stone, sand and gravel however these are not large enough to meet the demand of the construction industry. If construction involves wood it should aim to be from sustainable sources, where reforestation takes place to compensate for any trees cut down. The Prince’s Foundation have worked to create the islands first sustainable building codes which encourage the use of simple designs and passive climate control. They are also hoping to find out if breeze blocks could be replaced with other materials mined locally without creating a market for quarrying.
by Grace Dickins
Grace has a BSc in Environmental Science. You can also connect with Grace via LinkedIn.
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