Sunday, October 2, 2016


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 1, 2016 issue

Moving to a new condominium building? Wait a minute. It could be beautiful outside but could give you hidden costs inside. The builders could pass on to you added burdens because it is unsustainable on many counts.

Simply put, a building that takes too much energy to cool or heat is like a car that guzzles up too much petrol. The analogy is simple. You accept a bad building design, you end up seeing your savings go down the drain because of the builder’s operational costs - and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Designing and building a structure should be within and beyond the green building norms,” says long time Philippine resident Italian architect Romolo Nati, a sensitive artist who professes to have a liking for the Filipino nipa hut. 

Nati has lived in the Philippines for quite some time. Having seen many climate upheavals in recent years, his work thus reflects solutions about environmental issues. They are creatively woven into his modern Italian designs and inspirations derive from things Filipino are always present, giving his clients a fusion with added value: Living with nature and learning to harmonize with the environment. 

A devout advocate of sustainability, Nati says a building design must always have a common denominator. While it must basically provide functionality to people, it must have a lower impact on the environment. 

“At the rate we are abusing the planet, it is simply not sustainable. We are bound to run out of natural resources needed to survive. That is why we need to focus on building green buildings,” he says.

And that’s what he exactly did. 

When he met Jose Leviste III, a young Filipino environmental lawyer in 2009, both of them immediately developed a liking to pursue real estate development, with focus on green architecture and sustainability. The encounter resulted in the establishment of ItalPinas, a real estate development company serious in designing eco-friendly and mixed-use buildings in the Philippines.

World-renowned Italian design

Nati brings with him a big chunk of Italy, a country recognized as a global fashion, architecture, automotive, and interior design trendsetter. Famous designer Pier Giacomo Castiglioni once said: "Quite simply, we are the best" and Nati always wants to come close to that standard.

After graduating summa cum laude with an Architecture degree in Italy, Nati travelled around the world. By stroke of fate, he ended up in the Philippines. Italy’s loss, Philippines’ gain, so to speak.

On its beautifully designed website, Nati points out the company’s mantra: “Ours is performance based. Our projects are developed with the use of parametric architecture. Our design process involves integrating important factors like weather conditions, financial considerationss and functional needs. Our primary goal: find the best possible combination in order to arrive at the final design that will ultimately give out the best solution.”

He explains that rather than elbow with existing developers in already well-developed areas, ItalPinas zeroes in on upcoming cities in naturally beautiful locations and safe areas. 

The ItalPinas, which Nati leads, together with Leviste, seeks to expand in selected cities in the next few years. Cities with significant demographic and economic growth potentials are on the radar. Similarly, the company invests in undeveloped natural areas to provide well-integrated eco-tourist developments. 

Here’s more of Nati on sustainable real estate development:

What is an eco-sustainable building?

RN: It’s a building low on environmental impact and has significant social value. It benefits everyone including the entire community. It minimizes use of water, raw materials, energy, and even the land where it sits on. More than ever, it reduces emissions, waste, polluting the environment and protects people’s health.

Why should anyone invest on an eco-sustainable building? 

RN: Because it is good for the community and the environment, aside from being solidly value-packed. 
Sustainable buildings do not deplete natural resources. Developers of sustainable structures consciously use less raw materials and more environmentally responsible renewable products.

What made you focus on this aspect of real estate business?

RN: I like the idea of producing products that create value to people and effect positively on our ecosystem. 

Can aesthetic design and eco-sustainability go together?

RN: Absolutely yes. San Miguel in Ortigas, Ateneo in Rockwell and my favorite, the Bahai Cubao are good examples. 

What is a great building design to you?

RN: A building that addresses the values I mentioned above and it is beautiful inside out. A great building is when it is good for the environment and costs less to operate. Primavera Residences is the perfect example of a sustainable architecture.

Who influenced much of your architectural advocacy in the Philippines?

RN: The beautiful natural environment (that should be preserved), the character of Filipino people (very friendly) and the not-balanced wealth situation (we need to create value that is affordable).

What advice can you give to future developers in the Philippines when it comes to constructing sustainable buildings?

RN: Sustainable buildings produce higher value for companies, their clients and the country. They have significant long-term effects, allowing businesses to play their part in protecting the environment on a daily basis.

Creating them benefit both local communities and society as a whole. The return on investment with a sustainable building also increases. Because it is energy efficient, the value of your property also helps improve the bottom line.

Can you tell if a building is sustainable or not?

RN: Yes. Physically, it is a building with a “green” roof, which can have significant economic benefits. Lowering roof temperature reduces the amount of cooling machinery needed, even lowering costs for neighboring buildings. 

It can reduce environmental impact by lowering pollution from the building’s power usage. The chain reaction ultimately leads to the community’s heat effect. Reduced storm water runoff is another environmental benefit. 

Is building a sustainable edifice expensive? Why and why not?

RN: It is not when you know how to design and focus on sustainability early on. It is not when you encourage sustainable design ideas to flourish, like retrofitting existing buildings rather than building a new one.

Tell us about yourself, what school did you study?

RN: I graduated from Rome’s University “La Sapienza” (it means knowledge). I had a thesis in Industrial Design and designed a car for Mitsubishi that was awarded in international competition. 

Do you think Filipinos appreciate good architectural design?

RN: Yes, they do.

Generally, what do you think of building designs in the country’s busiest cities? 

RN: As in every city, some are beautiful some are not. The most important places for me are those between buildings, and have big spaces for the public. 

What is your dream design if you have all the money to build it?

RN: Sustainable houses for the poor. 

What made IDC focus on developing emerging cities in the Philippines and how do you see it 10 years from now?

RN: Megacities are getting un-livable, congested, unhealthy, expensive, polluted, and stressful. It is better to go to a new growing city where quality of life is much better. I see it as a leader in accessible, sustainable real estate developments in ASEAN.

What inspires you? 

RN: Nature and my favorite quote from Fuller: “The best way to predict the future is to design it.” 

On-going projects

Primavera Residences. The “Twin Towers” located in the Pueblo de Oro Business Park, Cagayan de Oro. It offers convenience, style and all amenities of modern living, adjacent to SM City, schools, churches, a golf course, situated inside Pueblo de Oro Business Park, an export-zone registered with Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA). 

IDC established itself as the “first-mover” in introducing condominium style living in Cagayan de Oro for the middle-income segment. It won the Best Mixed-Use Development in the Philippines Award given by the International Property Awards in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. It was also highly commended as one of the Best Condo Developments in the Philippines at the 2011 Southeast Asia Property Awards held in Singapore in 2011.

Primavera City. Located at the heart of uptown Cagayan de Oro, near the multi-awarded Primavera Residences. A mixed-use living environment condominium, inspired by nature’s secrets, the project will be in three phases: Mixed-use condominium, a BPO and a host a branded hotel and luxury apartments. 

It will offer distinct Italian design and world-class construction standards, contemporary architectural aesthetics, attention to detail and elegant ambience. Envisioned to be a highlight in Philippine high-rise architecture.

Miramonti. Surrounded by green peaks and highlands south of Manila in Sto. Tomas (part of the Philippines’ new beltway of economic growth, along the expressway connecting the capital region with Batangas Port. Miramonti will soon become a landmark south of Manila, an essential point of reference for the expanding residential and commercial communities of southern Luzon. 

It is a mixed-use, commercial and residential development with contemporary Italian design – from the lobby to the green sky garden. It will feature modern and lifestyle and recreation options as well as harness natural principles to meet its cooling and energy needs.

Nati espouses sustainability like no other. He lives it, designs it and endorses it. You cannot expect him to veer away from it. For him, a green building is not a buzzword or a fashionable word to namedrop. It is a way of life.