Considering Design Envelopes

Last April, I visited my home country the Philippines after nearly seven years since the last time I was there. As I walked outside the doors of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, looking to my left and right, seeing what looked seemingly familiar in a now unfamiliar territory, I felt the hot humid air as it hit my face.
It made me reflect on how spaces affect air movement and influences comfort levels. While reading the MEEB book (an architectural jargon of the Mechanical Electrical Equipment for Buildings by Stein), it gave me insight on how a building's envelope, or form, if you will, is directly related to the climate of a country or a particular place. Some people have the misconception that they can just easily buy floor plans for a house or school, and then use that plan to build the same structure in another place. This is contrary to what sustainability professes. Take for example the climate of the Philippines. It is a tropical country known for having hot and humid climate. In this type of natural environment, there is great desire to increase fresh air circulating within a space so as to avoid the "sick building syndrome" that is so prevalent in most structures in Manila.
I look at the traditional "bahay kubo", an indigenous house and trademark of rural areas in the Philippines. The form is based on an open frame. It has steep roof slopes to shed off rain water during the rainy season. It's floor level is raised on stilts, to serve as protection from earth moisture and environmental elements/wild animals, while at the same time, allows air to pass over and under the slots in between its bamboo flooring. This form to me, is ideal in this natural environment.
Building forms like a half-sphere resembling an igloo is more suited to cold climates like the United States. The reason this form works well in cold climates such as Alaska is because the compact form filters light and heat and blocks off wind---not necessarily the case for the Philippine climate. Spaces need wind breezes so the hot air can move around and raise comfort levels for its inhabitants.
People attempting to be builders need to look "into" things instead of "at", as what my hero Frank Lloyd Wright would say. We need to know what produced those forms, and question why are they shaped the way they are.


obbiejuan said...

The only problem with the bahay kubo is it's disposable nature. As you know, the Philippines is a tropical cyclone country and a bahay kubo is in no way an earthly match for it. Although I'm a fan of the bahay kubo and was fortunate enough to have the chance to participate in building one for my aunt, I seriously doubt the practicality of that design concept without any drastic modification. Right now I live in Florida where I could be as close enough to the same climatic condition as I can experience in the homeland. After more than a year and a failed attempt to established my own contracting company here due to the housing market slowdown, I learned a lot of valuable information that I could probably use when I build a retirement home in Alfonso Cavite. Yes! I'm finally heading there. We can talk more about the bahay kubo later because I'm still making one. I already instructed the care taker of my properties to plant lots and lots of kawayan. Do you know how to skin bamboo? I could use some help, or I can show you how if you want to. I want to know how you'll address the problem about our national house's structural integrity. It's probably not impossible to have a house made out of bamboo typhoon proof. In the last few years before I moved to Florida, thy've experienced an unusually high frequency of destructive hurricanes that prompted the state to make the building code even tougher than in any other state (except probably California because of earthquake).

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