World Environment Day: Australia Awards alumnus contributing to a greener planet through architecture
Posted: 4 June 2022
World Environment Day has been observed on 5 June every year since 1974. With the theme #OnlyOneEarth, the 2022 World Environment Day campaign calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our planet.
Jimi Chakma, an Australia Awards alumnus from Bangladesh, is contributing towards this action everyday. As an architect and urban designer, he is passionate about constructing sustainable buildings that inspire people to be more environmentally friendly. In his teaching as an academic at the University of Asia Pacific, he enthusiastically trains students on ways to make cities more liveable, green and sustainable, by pushing the boundaries of urban design concepts and incorporating innovation in architecture.
Jimi completed a Master of Urban Design from RMIT University in 2019 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. During his two years of study in Australia, he received the Master of Urban Design Excellence Award three times. He says the emphasis on project-based learning and the hands-on practical experience offered by institutions in Australia refined his analytical skills to work on carbon-neutral and eco-friendly designs for sustainable cities.
In his professional practice, Jimi’s focus is on residential and public buildings, mainly in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, home to many of Bangladesh’s indigenous communities. A member of the Chakma indigenous community himself, he is passionate about raising the living standards of indigenous people and marginalised groups. He contributes by creating environmentally friendly and culturally responsive sustainable designs that enhance liveability. Through his practice, he is finding his own language of architecture and design identity: a fusion of traditional architecture and contemporary living.
“My Australian degree equipped me with the technical capabilities and creative capacity to solve the biggest challenges facing our cities nowadays,” says Jimi.
“Rising concerns like climate change, economic vitality, our wellbeing and sense of connectedness, and the development of quality of life require increased urban planning and leadership. Therefore I try to incorporate nature, renewable technologies and climate change solutions into every building project,” he concludes.
Jimi designs small- and large-scale buildings, including apartments, restaurants, resorts and institutional and commercial buildings. His design philosophy is to use alternative and eco-friendly building materials that can reduce negative effects on the environment.
One recent example that Jimi is proud of is ‘Heritage Dine’, a restaurant located in Khagrachari Hill District. This commissioned project was completed using eco-friendly materials, mostly bamboo and wood, which were locally sourced to minimise the overall carbon footprint. Sustainable design also applies traditional knowledge in an urban context. A single wide space under two rooves with no intermediate solid partitions, enclosed with a series of raw tree logs, enables fresh air circulation and brings natural light to the space, reducing the need for air-conditioning and artificial lights.
At the University of Asia Pacific, Jimi conducts design studios and theoretical courses. He teaches students about urban liveability, greener infrastructure and sustainable cities. In design-studio courses that function as design labs, he encourages students to trial solutions for different urban challenges and problems.
For the past few years, Jimi has been conducting design research on blue-green infrastructure, urban-block development, and the impact of digital technologies in the city, as well as designing inclusive public spaces in Old Dhaka. His work focuses on regenerating the city’s natural features, placemaking, inclusivity, and urban liveability to make better cities and a better planet.
“It is high time for every designer and engineer to construct green buildings with a low carbon footprint,” says Jimi. “I believe green architecture is crucial for the environment and the sustainability of human beings.”