Fri | Apr 19, 2024

Shonel Dwyer | Elevating environmental stewardship and responsible development

Published:Sunday | February 18, 2024 | 12:09 AM
An artist’s rendition of the proposed Pinnacle Luxury Residential Resort in Reading, Montego Bay.
An artist’s rendition of the proposed Pinnacle Luxury Residential Resort in Reading, Montego Bay.
Shonel Dwyer
Shonel Dwyer
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A nuanced conversation about finding equilibrium between advancement and conservation is thriving among Jamaicans today. Environmental and moral principles to safeguard and sustain have become inseparable pillars, reflecting a growing respect for both people and planet. This display of environmental stewardship comes at a crucial time as the globe confronts unprecedented climate and habitat crises.

The Pinnacle Luxury Residential Resort has emerged at a juncture when critical scrutiny and public censure are ironically at a very high point. People require a paragon of environmental sustainability, despite the obvious benefits to pulchritude and economy. The Pinnacle development is positioned to embody a visionary ethos of ‘responsibility for the community (people) and responsibility to the environment’ (planet). This transcendent framework seamlessly integrates opulence and refinement within a modern paradigm of conscientious development.

There is opportunity for a development like this coinciding with an exciting period for science and architectural innovation. The showcase of world-class engineering on our own shores presents enormous possibilities, as the synergy of the highest forms of intellectual capital with human and physical capital prevails.

Large property developers often propose ambitious plans to construct apartment blocks in ecologically sensitive areas. However, their ambition tends to extend primarily towards compensating for environmental losses through mitigation and the implementation of long-term monitoring and evaluation plans. A major part of testing limits does come with its own rewards, as long as an impact assessment emboldens them to do so. Be assured that any building work earmarked within zones of protection are subjects of thorough evaluation for proper management and control.

SUCCESSFUL DEVELOPMENTS

In recent years, successful developments have occurred in local surficial deposits (unconsolidated sediments), providing a positive backdrop for the upcoming project. While surpassing its predecessors in both height and density, this new development faces a unique situation with no direct local compass. However, this presents an opportunity for a measured approach, emphasizing science, innovation, and mitigation strategies. Considering my inclination toward geoscience, I’ve carefully assessed potential vulnerabilities to earthquakes, coastal erosion, and subsidence that are often to be considered in a planning process.

One notable example of a multi-story development situated in alluvium sediments that has served as a model of excellence is the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Built on reclaimed land, which often consists of alluvial deposits, Marina Bay Sands is an iconic integrated resort featuring luxury hotels, a vast convention centre, a shopping mall, and a host of other amenities. Despite its location on reclaimed land with potential geotechnical challenges, the development showcases innovative engineering and meticulous planning to ensure stability and safety. Its success demonstrates how strategic design and engineering solutions can transform alluvial areas into respectable urban hubs while prioritizing sustainability and resilience.

Marina Bay Sands utilised a combination of driven piles and bored piles to create a stable foundation that could withstand potential settlement (vertical displacement at foundation level) and ensure structural integrity. These piles penetrate deep into the underlying strata, providing robust support for the massive weight of the buildings and mitigating the risk of subsidence or shifting due to soil instability.

By incorporating scientific insights and proactive mitigation, the project consortium must aim for a well-managed and sustainable future for this development. In seismic events, the amplitude of seismic waves and a shift in the ‘period’ (toward a building/structure) increase in surficial deposits, even at distances away from the epicentre. When the ‘period’ of the earthquake aligns with the natural resonance of buildings, significant energy transfer can occur during that specific seismic cycle. To enhance safety, the natural period of the building must be altered through strengthening, reducing the amount of energy transferred. Emphasising the importance of innovative engineering in earthquake-prone regions, we can celebrate the design of structures like the Tokyo Skytree in Japan, which incorporates advanced seismic features. This global example highlights the effectiveness of cutting-edge engineering in ensuring safety and resilience during seismic events. Although Jamaica does not face the similar seismic threats as Japan, there is merit in paying attention to the ways in which they reduce their vulnerabilities.

ROLE OF MANGROVES

Recognising the role that mangroves play in coastal protection, developers of The Pinnacle have said they will preserve and respect these natural barriers. Mangroves, with their ability to absorb storm waves, not only safeguard against coastal erosion but also contribute to the overall health of seagrass communities, beaches, and reef systems. The planned rainwater harvesting is an integral component of such a commitment to environmental stewardship, fostering sustainability, and minimizing potential impacts on the marine ecosystem. Rainwater harvesting, in addition to reducing runoff, plays a key role in mitigating sedimentation associated with runoff.

In tandem with these initiatives, I recommend the construction of a seawall, which may further enhance efforts in controlling erosion. A seawall of about three metres acts as a protective barrier, absorbing wave energy and preventing the gradual wearing away of coastal areas. By implementing these comprehensive strategies, the development would strike a balance between development and environmental preservation, ensuring a sustainable and resilient future for both project and environs.

Let us be guided by these words, ’the scientists have given [modern man] the impression that there is nothing he cannot [do]”. However, with this power comes the imperative to tread carefully, recognizing our responsibility to preserve and protect the delicate balance of our natural world. The journey ahead is paved with innovation, science, and conscientious development, ensuring that The Pinnacle not only rises to great heights but does so with a profound commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Let our actions speak volumes, echoing the sentiment that progress and preservation can coexist harmoniously for the benefit of both present and future generations.

Shonel Dwyer is senior technology officer at the National Commission on Science and Technology. She is a geologist and worked as a specialist in natural/water resources management and the local oil and gas sector. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.