Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored and privileged to give a keynote speech at this session of the 6th International Seminar on Sustainable Environment and Architecture here today. This is truly a momentous occasion; for we are graced by the presence of professionals in architecture, planning, and engineering, gathered here to share views, visions, and experiences in facing the challenges of urban-living.

As a member of the Indonesian Cabinet, I consider this topic appropriate, because the government is proceeding into its National Development implementing sustainable development in all disciplines of life.

Furthermore, the topic assigned to me is indeed timely, with the concept of sustainable development and global efforts at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) underscored by the UN Summit just last week. Consequently, integrating Architecture as a factor in the MDGs should be a major guideline in developing new concepts of environment and architecture.

To refresh our memory, almost two decades ago, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), chaired by the then Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland, defined it as ‘Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

For the WCED, sustainable development includes two key concepts. First, the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, ‘to which overriding priority should be given’ and second, the idea of ‘limits’ to the environment’ stability to meet present and future needs, be imposed by the state of technology and social organizations. To translate Brundtland’s report into action, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) organized an Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. One result was the Agenda 21 action plan, which provided for the first time an international agreement on the practical implications of sustainable development for cross-cutting issues such as trade, consumption and population growth, and sectoral issues among which architecture was included.

For these strategic purposes, mainstreaming sustainable development in our activities is very important, and should be included among others:
Influencing national development guidelines and plans; nurturing local innovations, facilitating dialogs and partnerships among key stakeholders, creating public awareness campaigns, and supervising enforcement and compliance to that effect.

Indonesia has experienced important milestones in the environmental field yielding precious lessons learned to proceed further in our development.

Firstly, we have joined the urban millennium, where towns and cities will be met with continued rapid population and economic growth. This will be accompanied by significant urban expansion with its excessive energy and resources consumption, in the expense of natural resources, natural ecosystems, and environmental problems. It is also noted that in the future, the low and middle-income population group will be the most significant factor at shaping the outcome of urban-living in our country. How we manage that population growth and our behavior in respect to the environment and architecture disciplines will be crucial toward influencing future livelihoods and prosperity.

Secondly, the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004 in Aceh and Northern Sumatra give us new insights and made us realize that we always live in the shadow of natural disasters. Now we fully appreciate that all living things play an important part in the prevention of natural calamities. The functions of the environment itself can be used as a tool to prevent or at least mitigate the effects of future disasters. An example of this would be to utilize natural ecosystems as barriers and damage-minimizing factors. In addition, the tsunami has raised environmental concerns that threaten human health. Moreover, the need for continuous livelihood became more urgent. These are the lesson learned and it would be irresponsible if they were not included in the total concept of “an environmentally friendly architecture“.

Distinguished guests,

The important milestones I mentioned above will lead us to a series of architecture challenges that need to be addressed in this seminar.

First challenge, how could “better living environment� be implemented indiscriminately? It is the responsibility of architecture and planning professionals to provide engineering solutions to overcome extreme low quality urban living. Those solutions should aim for high environmental quality as a statement in response to environmental sustainability.

Since 1992, an array of local and national strategies has been designed to tailor these recommendations to specific conditions facing different communities across the world. One particular aspect has to be pointed out in this context: the steadily increasing energy consumption, and building designs or architecture, urban design and planning not adapted to local climatic circumstances. Too often climatic factors are neglected in construction because they are not of immediate interest and concern to the building industry, builders, designers, developers and owners. This is true not only for structures.

In hot climate zones, but also for those in temperate and cold climate zones, with the input of sufficient energy almost everything seems possible. Present construction trends in tropical and subtropical regions still show little awareness about energy conservation.

As you all have known, sustainable design in architecture is meant to apply the basic principles of achieving “green form� and “green process�. Green form manifests in environmental-friendly designs, while green process covers planning and building phases which are sensitive to the environment. I strongly believe that you all have mastered producing beautiful, healthy, sustainable and resource-efficient building, yet I still face a great number of such “green buildings� built insensitively to the local communities. Large real estate projects that boast “eco-designs� and “eco-living� are often isolating existing communities, disconnecting sources of water and open space between areas, and simply do not fit in because of a total transformation from rural neighborhood into modern, sophisticated urban area. Some of these projects are also known to have displaced a great number of people from their homes and jobs, thus indirectly causing new pockets of urban poverty and slum areas.

Other developing nations have proven to be successful in promoting sustainable environment that empower marginal communities in the shadow of economic crisis. The principles of using natural and renewable materials that are abundant locally and promoting self-build has empowered local communities to achieve eco-friendly living. It is the intervention of architects and planners that have helped producing such houses beautiful and aesthetically-pleasing. I wish these experiences can be shared publicly, so that it also serves the goal of educating the public.

Second challenge, how could we develop advanced technology that is environmentally friendly? In that context, the building and construction industry is regarded as consuming some of the highest resources in the industrial branch due to the masses of building materials transported and used, and it is also responsible for creating a major part of the anthropogenic emissions that have a detrimental effect on the climate.

A building can be regarded as a success when its construction is linked to a sensible and conscious approach towards energy as well as meeting numerous other requirements (quality of life, health, social aspects, affordability, future property value etc.) Architecturally creative and technical solutions thus have to be created and realized in view of all these specific requirements. “Good Architecture� has to fulfill many requirements – and a sensible approach towards energy is definitely one of them Hi-tech buildings and housings should not consume excessive amounts of energy, and their existence must not disrupt the delicate natural ecosystems. Their structures should not have been derived from building materials or processed through a system that endangers the well being of nature. The fact that some modern housing now adopt the “natural look� does not mean that they are allowed to exist at the expense of overused natural resources, such as wood or stone. Hence it is important to inspect the belief that modern buildings that are energy and material-efficient will be inexpensive and environmentally friendly.

Third challenge, how can we make “living� apply not only in physical dimensions, such as translating it into beautiful designs of homes? Could we also integrate social and economic aspects of the home’s inhabitants and surrounding communities? I am sure that all of you have previously acknowledged this issue; however, I understand that knowing the truth does not necessarily make its implementation easy. But if we strive to implement pro-poor and inclusive designs and technology, the end result will be satisfactory.

The often used terms such as “inclusive� and “pro-poor� do not denote only our government’s path of development, but it is the world philosophy in development. We now see that socio-economic and environmental problems will always influence one another. We also know that global and local matters are closely intertwined, with the example of local poverty spawning an international network of terrorism. Natural disasters and environmental degradation can also join together to wreak havoc in both poor communities and up-scale neighborhoods.

In our professional field, those issues often become the starting point of our work. Therefore, marginal communities should be treated as important as those who are more privileged, so that the term “better-living environment� can be achieved in its truest manifestation devoid from any forum of discrimination I suggest you make them the priority of the discussions.

We have discussed the numerous challenges arise in connection with this new complexity and diversity within the context of sustainable environment and architecture. A basic social obligation can be seen in every architectural era and it now focuses on the topic of sustainable development – i.e. an all-round economic, ecological and social approach. The search is on for systemic solutions and this often leads to conflicts in the realization of concrete development programs. The whole topic of sustainability requires a systemic approach. A change in user behavior in the office and residential building sector has also left its mark on new building constructions, thus requiring the total integration of ever-changing user needs when employing a systematic approach.

New building constructions are becoming more complex and equally diverse in design due to the increasing use of innovative materials, technologies and construction methods nowadays. The amount of chemical substances used in the building and construction industry has, for example, increased a thousand fold within the last century, and architecture is constantly endeavoring to incorporate these innovations in the design of new buildings.

Another aspect of development is the considerations of traditional wisdom ever present within our sphere of life, To complete the full circle of understanding human habitat , and to achieve a historical perspective on sustainable development, architects should not only create new buildings, but also rejoice in the wisdom that emanates from classical architecture that encapsulate the wisdom of our forefathers. That is why it is very important that we recognize this wisdom in the Old Towns of any big city or metropolitan area. These numerous examples are invaluable therefore we have to regenerate, preserve, and re-use these historic buildings. These icons of the past provide a window for the younger generation, to understand and appreciate the thoughts and expressions of their predecessors.

Ladies and Gentlemen
There is presently a quiet, but widespread movement towards an architecture which treads more lightly on the planet. This movement has been given various names, and encloses many disciplines, criteria, and methodologies. It is my hope that, after discovering available alternatives, you will develop dissatisfaction with standard building practices and begin a search for true home.

You are the instigators, managers, practitioners, and the source of inspiration for the large hordes of young professionals. Your strong collective commitments are necessary in making this seminar’s credo and its scope relevant to present day needs. I fervently hope that this international seminar heralds the new age of architecture, that is ultimately inclusive, pro-poor and pro-environment.

In conclusion, I wish you luck and success in this seminar, and thank you for your kind attention.

Minister of Environment,

Ir. Rachmat Witoelar