‘Smart homes’ inspired by tragic Ondoy flood

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WHEN Typhoon Ondoy struck in 2009 the executive producer of Philippine Realty TV (PRTV), John Aguilar, was at first shocked, and then inspired by the widespread damage the floodwaters did to the homes of his relatives living in Marikina and other cities.

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Working on his first home project at the time, Aguilar was fortunate to escape harm as his property was on higher ground, but was not unaffected by what he witnessed.

“I may not have experienced [the flooding]first-hand, but I tried to imagine all the people who have to rebuild their homes and their lives every time they were hit by floods,” Aguilar said.

His work for PRTV, Aguilar said, provided a perfect outlet to explore ways in which homeowners and builders could design homes that were better protected against the country’s chronic vulnerability to floods.

“At PRTV, we try to showcase new innovations and ideas in the real estate and construction industry, and that got us thinking, why not design and build a house that is responsive to the plight of many of those living in flood-prone areas?” Aguilar said.

Aguilar’s PRTV team developed what they called Project: Smart Home, a flood-safe design that will be built and shown on the show, and can be adapted for other parts of the country.

Inspired by bahay kubo

Working with the Buensalido + Architects firm, PRTV developed a flood-responsive home by borrowing traditional Filipino features.

“We used the concept of a bahay kubo. Since the first floors are the first thing hit when floodwaters rise, we made sure that our homes are designed to start from the second floor up,” explained Aguilar.

The Smart Home is a three-story townhouse. The first floor comprises a parking area, a covered portion that can be converted into a storage space or used as a space to entertain guests, a small garden area, and stairs leading to the main entrance of the home. The second floor, instead of containing communal areas as the lower floor of a conventional home would, houses the bedrooms, while the living room, kitchen, and dining area are all on the top floor.

Aguilar explained the design is more useful in a flood situation because it gives the family a place to gather while waiting for rescue. In addition, Aguilar pointed out, most of a house’s expensive appliances, such as the refrigerator and televisions, are in the common areas, so putting them on the highest floor is safer.

More importantly, Aguilar said, “One of the problems we noticed during Ondoy was that people who were stranded on their roofs had no access to food and water because [their kitchens]were already flooded. With the kitchen on the top-most floor, residents who are stranded will still have access to food and water, as it is the least likely place that flood waters will reach.”
Unique features

Further flood safety features unique to the Smart Home are its floating carport, and something Aguilar called the Regenerative Amphibious Floating Terrace (RAFT).

The floating carport is a platform that sits on the parking area, and is designed to float on rising floodwaters, keeping one’s car safe. Similarly, the RAFT is just what its name suggests; attached as a normal-looking balcony on the second floor of the house, it too floats, and can be detached and used as a rescue boat if necessary.

“Most people would imagine building a floating house as a deterrent against floods,” shares Aguilar. “However, that kind of design can be costly and not very practical for most people. Through Project Smart Home, we found a way to integrate the idea of floatation platforms to currently existing parts of the home to come up with a climate-adaptive real estate model that effectively responds to a rapidly changing world.”

Other ‘smart’ features besides the floating platforms are also integrated into the design. Instead of regular concrete walls, the Smart Home uses a foam-core panel construction, which helps to insulate against solar heat. The Smart Home also makes use of energy-saving devices such as LED lighting throughout, and has some solar energy capacity through roof-mounted solar panels.

“What we’re doing with our project is we’re injecting technology and innovation into home designs, using these kind of out-of-the-box ideas to help make homes in the country more flood and climate-responsive,” said Aguilar. “We can’t wait to see how homes across the Philippines can adapt our ideas, and how this kind of change can affect the country’s responsiveness to drastic changes in our climate.”

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