The good, the bad and the ugly

View across the rooftops of Banqiao and Zhonghe

cover of May 2007 issue of Taiwan ReviewThe May 2007 issue of Taiwan Review focuses on the topic of "Built environment: Innovation and Renovation". It covers a range of topics related to urban renewal and architecture in Taiwan. 

The first article "Redress the mess" talks about urban renewal. It examines some of the reasons for failure of urban renewal programs. One major problem is land ownership and getting land owners to contribute to the costs of urban improvement. The law now requires that only 80% of the number of total owners of 80% of the plot need to agree to new projects. It also notes many urban renewal projects fail unless they have full and committed support from the government.

Land owned by the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) is a major target for urban renewal projects. The TRA owns a lot of prime land with railway frontages in downtown areas.  

detail of the Beitou Library, Taipei City

There is an article is about green buildings. Two examples of green buildings are given, the Delta Electronics building in the Tainan Science Park and the Beitou Library (see photo above).

The article on green buildings discusses various features of green buildings such as rainwater capture and passive heating or cooling systems. It also mentions an important but often overlooked factor, the choice of materials for the building. Manufacturing concrete requires large amounts of energy. According to the article, "for every tonne of cement produced in Taiwan, 111.9 kilowatts of electric power [I think they mean kilowatt hours] and 133.9 kilograms of coal are consumed". The Delta Electronics Building uses 30% fly ash mixed with concrete to reduce the amount of energy required. The Beitou Library is made of wood imported from North America. 

Standards for green buildings in Taiwan are set by the Ministry of Interior's Architecture and Building Research Institute (ABRI). The standards account for Taiwan's sub-tropical climate which demands different design considerations to those in temperate countries. The system deals with four categories: ecology, energy saving, waste reduction and health. 159 buildings in Taiwan have been certified as green buildings. 

In 2004 the Construction and Planning Agency under the Ministry of Interior also introduced a chapter on green building into the building code. Its standards are not as high as those of ABRI, but they are mandatory for all new buildings.  

There is also an article about restoration of historic buildings noting the Taipei Guest House and the old barns in Fuxing township near Lugang as examples. The final articles talk about people's perceptions of Taiwan's architecture, the construction of rooftop apartments and mezzanine floors and the ups and downs of the property market. The magazine is certainly well worth a read if you are interested in any of these topics.  

One thought on “The good, the bad and the ugly

  1. Hi David – you hit a nerve on this article (!)….

    Its great to see the Taiwan planners coming up with eco friendly, modern designs. There is however one major issue that designers always seem to overlook: maintenance. You know they build these nice buildings, paths, walkways, etc. but it seems like they never take the weather/environment into consideration on how to build and take care things.

    I will give you two perfect examples of what I mean. In Peitou the city built a beautiful walkway along the small hot spring stream about 3-4 years ago. If you go there today, most of it is already in dilapidated condition. The wood is rotted out, the lights are all broken and full of bugs, nails and screws are sticking out because the wood is warped, etc. Why do they
    allow things to fall apart so quickly? If they just put a good coating of shellac over it to begin with, then put a new coat on every year or two, it would last a long time even with Peitou’s harsh environment. This is so common sense and logical, but it\’s not done.

    Another example is the DaDaoCheng wharf area near where I live. The city just finished re-developing the entire area last year. But this year, everything is already broken: wood is rotted out, plastic wood is warped, screws and nails sticking out, concrete cracked, bricks are broken, lights busted, railings rusted out, It\’s a disgrace. These are just two examples, I can list 50 more, but the point in not to be negative, it\’s to point out what should be done to make things last: – use the right materials, inspect the construction job before the final payment is made, incorporate a maintenance plan into the cost structure. Of course by having things fall apart quickly, people can make more money rebuilding all the time. Its no
    wonder why many cities in Taiwan are having financial problems.

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