Finch Philippines update 02

Two weeks have passed since the research project in the Philippines started. Observing the environment was the main objective so far. The project made a leap forward since the start. In this update the following topics will be discussed: accommodation, situation, material, design and implementation.

Accommodation

From the moment we arrived we felt welcome in our family that is hosting us for two months. We stay in the barangay (village) Sta. Elena, located in the municipality of Hagonoy. We were accepted as  though we were living there for years. Our lives are getting more and more similar to the lives of Filipinos. Our air-conditioned office is in the extension of the restaurant of Mr. Angel Cruz, our local contact in Hagonoy. Mr. Cruz is the former mayor of Hagonoy and already helped us tremendously with conducting our research.

Situation in Hagonoy

The main problem in the municipality of Hagonoy and the surrounding municipalities is the rapid population growth, leading to an increased density in the villages. About 30 years ago, families still had sufficient outdoor space to grow crops and enjoy nature. These families had on average 8 to 12 children. All children inherited a piece of land of their parents, on which they all built their own house. This resulted in small lots which are fully used for housing.

Also did the growing population lead to an increased use of groundwater. This overuse led to ground subsidence. The buildings and road are therefore sinking together with the ground. This worsens the effect of the high tide. Some households try to keep the water out by making high doorsteps or increasing their floor height. Some houses sank already too deep to be saved, this either resulted in an unused first floor, abandonment of their house or acceptance of water in their house. This unliveable situation is even worse because of the extreme water pollution. There is no sewage treatment, everything goes straight to the river, including the garbage. In the coming months, the rainy and typhoon season will really start and the water will rise even further. Furthermore, global warming is also affecting the situation because of rising sea level.

Recently, research has been conducted in one of the poorest barangays (villages). Several houses have been analysed concerning the exterior, interior and the use. The inhabitants were interviewed about their current situation and their wishes for the future. This information functions as input for designing the Finch Philippines module.

The visit was also extended to several schools in the barangay. Education is considered as really important, therefore no disruptions to the education of the children is accepted. Flooding of schools is the worst that can happen. Consequently, more measures against the high tide are taken. There are however still improvements possible. The floors have been raised multiple times, resulting in low ceilings. The classrooms are very crowded, as twice the amount of students attend the classes. All resulting in small, hot and insufficiently ventilated rooms, not benefiting the learning environment. Finch Philippines is looking to improve the building of schools as well.

Besides the problems caused by the high tide, is the temperature every day really high. Striking is that Filipinos are the ones complaining the most about the temperature. Not a lot of measures can be seen in the design of houses that take natural ventilation or either high insulation for air-conditioning into account.

Situation in Manila

Last weekend, time was spend in Manila, which is about 50 kilometres from Hagonoy. A visit was paid to a Dutch entrepreneur and his British wife who founded the foundation Young Focus. The foundation helps families and children that live in the area that is known as ‘Smokey Mountain’. Smokey Mountain is a slum on a garbage dump. Sorting of garbage is the main source of income for the inhabitants of Smokey Mountain. Garbage is seen everywhere and the smell of it is intense. The houses are built with materials found on the garbage dump. Some people made their houses under concrete bridges, hanging under the bridge and above the water. These houses have a height of 1.5 meter and don’t have access to daylight. In order to improve the situation, the government built several apartment complexes for these people twenty years ago. But due to the lack of maintenance they fell apart and are now a part of Smokey Mountain. Hard to imagine is how these people manage when the typhoon season will start and the water will rise. Visiting the slums was both shocking and inspiring. It was shocking because of the inhumane conditions these people live, but inspiring because of the happiness and joy these people send out.

Material

Studying the possible building materials is one of the main aspects of the current activities. Last weekend a meeting with the CEO of a big wood supplier took place in Manila. The complex situation concerning sustainable forest management in the Philippines became clear. Designing with local materials is therefore an extra challenge. Currently, a database of all available materials is assembled. Materials are checked on multiple variables. Further research is still needed in order to determine the right materials.

Design and Engineering

Daily floods are the main problem in Hagonoy. Designing a Finch module for Hagonoy has therefore to take this problem into account. Besides this main problem, there are multiple parameters that influence the design. Determining these parameters is important before further steps towards a feasible design can be taken. Development of several concepts is an ongoing process. So far affordability, sustainability and floating houses have been a frequent topic of discussion. At this stage working towards a further developed design is the main focus.

Implementation

Designing a Finch module for the Philippines is the goal of this research, however a feasible implementation is crucial to actually help the people of Hagonoy. A comparison between the situation in the Philippines now and the Netherlands in 1900 is made, in which social housing corporations and the building regulations are taken as an example. A concept for implementing a similar system is being developed.