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CHOGM preparations: construct but protect the environment

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th February 2007 03:00 AM

At virtually every a corner, especially in Kampala and Entebbe, there is a construction project taking place, but in many instances, at the expense of natural features.

At virtually every a corner, especially in Kampala and Entebbe, there is a construction project taking place, but in many instances, at the expense of natural features.

By Jean-Marie Nsambu

WITH the awaited Common-wealth Heads of Govern-ment Meeting (CHOGM) drawing nearer, authorities are trying to beautify their precincts.

At virtually every a corner, especially in Kampala and Entebbe, there is a construction project taking place, but in many instances, at the expense of natural features.

While it is the government’s priority to develop and create prosperity for all, the value of conserving the environment is, however, obscured. Yet it is constitutionally acknowledged that a sustained environment would ensure development for Uganda’s posterity.

In some glaring instances, constructors re-developing Entebbe Road, have seen to the cutting of a number of trees in the city. At Makerere University, the perimeter fence being erected around the campus, has come with the price of many felled rare species of trees.

But, preserving natural features should be a primary goal of every new development, an architect says. Many sites have natural features that add economic and practical value, besides wide artistic interest.

Ian Senkatuuka, the chairman Board of Research of the Uganda Society of Architects, notes however, that there is a lack of regulations guarding against the destruction of natural features.

“We do not have powers to force anyone to build in a certain way. We only have advisory roles.” Senkatuuka hastens to add, though, that all architects are trained to be sensitive to the environment.

“Before construction, it is important to invite the architect to the project site when it is still virgin (untampered with). He can then give advice on how the construction can be done with the least impact on the environment.”

The architect says it can be more artistic and economically viable to build around a nature feature, like a tree or a rock. He notes that these are some components in buildings, especially hotels or leisure parks that would offer a visitor the worth of their money.

Some trees, he argues, may not be safe to build around, although many in Uganda are. At Silver Springs Hotel in Bugolobi, for example, a joint with several partitions where many revellers rush, was constructed around a live tree. It provides a very cool atmosphere under the heat of day.

“If the architect finds the natural feature to be safe for a dwelling project, he or she would be able to design a plan accordingly highlighting the preservation of that feature. There would be no need to destroy it, if it could add value to the project.”

Senkatuuka reveals that such landscaping has not been appreciated much by building owners. “By the time an architect is taken to the site, the owner has already destroyed the features.”

Building around natural features like trees requires ingenuity. And that would involve the technical expertise of architects.

Therefore, building in co-ordination with one or two architects provides the project owner a starting point of an inspired design. It saves also the building owner resources, like one would spend on destroying trees and after the project has been erected, planting others.

According to a U.S Home and Garden information centre, protecting trees during and after construction has never been more important. But, communication and co-operation among the stakeholders including the landowner, contractors, architect and landscape architect among others, is essential to ensure a successful tree-protection plan.

“Once you have selected the trees to remain on the property, consider their location in deciding the placement of the house, annexes and drive or walkway. Simply changing the angle of a building or curving a walkway can preserve the essential root space of a prized tree,” it states.

CHOGM preparations: construct but protect the environment

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