In Malta, we are fortunate enough to have still retained our traditional buildings and cultures in some of our villages. Whilst this is a tourist attraction that generates income and jobs, such jobs are generally taken over by foreigners. Locals have to commute to work since most employment opportunities are centrally located or in industrial areas. There is a high dependency on transportation which creates stressful traffic jams and exhaust fumes that negatively affect our health.
Environmentalist and author Paul Hawken asks; How can we reconfigure the world in such a way that we dramatically reduce our impact upon the environment and at the same time really improve the quality of life for people?
We need efficient public transport systems and rethink our local plans
As a nation, we are highly dependent on private cars and as stated earlier on, most of us need to commute to work on a daily basis. We all know what the traffic situation is out there but we all choose to use our private cars rather than take public transport. In addition to improving public transport, there is the need to improve bicycle tracks and pedestrian zones however this alone will not encourage the individual to abandon the private car. There are elements of the planning system which I personally feel need work. Firstly, I agree with the need for flexibility in the built environment. A longer-term, the more sustainable solution would look at interventions earlier in the building process, rather than retrofitting office blocks that are simply not suitable as housing. A planning and design approach which gives minimum specification of how form relates to function should be considered, thereby allowing a building to fulfil multiple uses over the course of its life without sacrificing quality as it changes. Increased mixed-use developments should be encouraged so that new jobs may be created within walking or cycling distance of an individual’s dwelling. The eco-city model on which smart city was planned is a good example. This concept may be integrated into our local plans. The principles of an eco-city are to consider the restoration of degraded land, fit the bioregion and balance development, create compact cities and optimise energy performance. An eco-city model also contributes to the economy, provides health and security, encourage the community and promotes social justice and equity whilst also enriching the community’s history and culture.
Third Edition September/October 2022
Chantal is a freelance interior designer and chartered project manager. She read a master’s degree in architecture environmental and energy studies