Somehow, we’ve gotten used to hearing stories of random people or businesses losing a significant portion of their assets after being at the receiving end of the wrath of a raging typhoon.
A few times also, we might have heard about stories of families mourning the loss of their home or a loved one—or worse, in some instances, both—following a seemingly inevitable encounter with Mother Nature’s harshest elements.
I’ve always been asked about how Filipinos can best go around this problem. My answer has always been something that’s grounded on reality and optimism: think ahead and be creative. While it’s true that we cannot prevent typhoons, earthquakes, or any other type of disasters from ever wreaking havoc in our land, but we can devise certain strategies to “soften the blows,” so to speak.
The fact of the matter is, disaster awareness has never become a major part of our consciousness than now. For most people who can’t afford to enjoy the privilege of relocating their homes, for example, they are often left to endure the hardest hits nature can unleash—a grim reality of life that also serves as an inspiration for real-estate developers and creative minds in their quest to introduce innovative ways to respond to the “new normal.”
In the United States, there have been plenty of intriguing and interesting design ideas propagated in as far as building a tornado-proof home is concerned. In 2008 experts have revealed that tornadoes cause an average of 57 percent of all US-insured catastrophic losses since 1953—a glaring proof of the kind of social and economic impact such disasters have had in the lives of many families for decades.
What designers did was to come up with a house that drops down a bunker—and out of the path of a devastating tornado—buried several feet underground. The entire 900-square-foot home will be held into place by four hydraulic lifts, and should a tornado threaten the surrounding area, the house will automatically slide down 10 feet below toward an underground bunker that also features an additional 400 square feet of space for storage and provisions.
As with any other innovation of this scale and magnitude, this project also comes with a hefty price tag. The prototypes have been estimated to cost between $300,000 and $500,000, but the designers also expect the figure to be slashed further once it becomes commercially available.
Here in the Philippines, we’ve also got plenty of innovators, and one of whom is a good friend of mine, the creator and executive producer of Philippine Realty TV, John Aguilar.
A few years ago, John and his partners from Buensalido Architects, first came up with “Project Smart Home Marikina” in a bid to offer an innovative real-estate solution to the flooding in the area. The project, sparked by what the Marikina residents suffered following the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, was made to come up with an authentic real-estate concept that works without the residents being burdened by the idea of leaving their families and their sources of income behind to migrate somewhere else.
Project Smart Home features a four-story residential complex that endeavors to become a home that can, hopefully, withstand future flooding. This project features a floatable carport that will allow vehicles to float in the instance of flooding, as well as detachable balconies known as Regenerative Amphibious Floating Terraces that can be used by the residents to escape to higher ground. Public areas, such as the living room, kitchen and bathrooms are also moved up to prevent them from being compromised in the event of massive flooding.
“Our concept for the Project Smart Home is amphibious living,” said Jason Buensalido, chief design ambassador and principal architect of the Buensalido Architects. “We are trying to mirror the characteristics of the subject, in this case, the floodwaters, to attain a seamless, functional transition.
So, instead of fighting against the flood, what we’re doing is actually getting its characteristics and trying to design your house to adapt to it by copying the way it moves, the way it behaves.”
In the commercial development sector, Daiichi Properties has adopted an important element to its construction process called “seismic testing.” It’s a design process done by testing a computer model that reflects the design of a building, to measure its optimal efficiency. In doing so, the computer test measures the structural integrity of the building’s shape and design, and the final output will be determined by how well its performance was during the simulation.
“Performance-based testing is not just about seeing how it [building] tolerates seismic activity. Here in the Philippines, you also have to worry about how infrastructure, especially tall ones, can handle strong wind speeds,” said Eric Manuel, vice president for Business Development at Daiichi Properties.