Build It Forward

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Disasters and calamities break a lot of things. Yet with all the damage and heartaches that come with it, there is always something positive that always forces its way out of their monstrous faces.

There was an outpouring of help from the neighboring provinces and the international community after the successive disasters that struck the Visayas last year. Moreover, it also awakened a lot of people on the importance of rebuilding damaged cities and towns with better consideration for disaster-preparedness and response.

Creativity in terms of improvements in architecture has again been placed to a test after the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda. History can attest to this through the great fires of ancient Rome and Chicago during the 1870s, afterwhich better cities and more resilient buildings emerged in those places. After the big calamities last year, ideas from architects and planners as well as design competitions opened most people to the bright side of having to rebuild.


Habitat for Humanity and an Ortigas-based construction company teamed up with the Department of Science and Technology in spearheading the “Build It Forward” architectural design competition for students this year to respond to the call of rebuilding in Typhoon Yolanda-ravaged communities. In this competition dominated by Luzon-based architecture schools, a Cebuana architecture student was among the finalists in the residential design category. Odessa Kaye Bulahan of the University of San Carlos (USC) placed second.

It was indeed a challenge for Bulahan, who was guided by her mentor and competition adviser architect Danilo Ravina and her companions at USC’s Institute of Planning and Design (USC-IPD). The design problem required participants to come up with a building design that can be built in a span of one month, cost at least P200,000, withstand an intensity 8 earthquake and 250-kph wind speeds and must use locally sourced materials.

The design approach focused on the understanding of the shape of the floor plan, the façade, the roof design and the material. The rectangular shape of the plan had a length that was less than three times its width. This was considered appropriate to resist an earthquake. The façade is treated with parapet walls that would protect the roof deck, which will be used as a “staging area” for emergency evacuation and rescue operations.

One material that stands out in their proposal is the interlocking compressed earth block. It is made up of anapog or limestone, which is quite abundant here. Then it is mixed with clay and concrete to come up with a strong, high-density material especially for houses in areas with no river or freshwater sand. The material has already been used in numerous projects of the USC-IPD including upcoming rehabilitation of communities in Northern Cebu.

Bulahan said it was another great way to be of help to disaster victims. She recalls doing her own contribution in relief works in the past through her creative talent. She said that she was also involved in community immersions like art therapies in Cagayan de Oro City after typhoon Sendong hit the place. She also worked with other artists after the earthquake in Bohol last year to help children overcome the trauma through drawings and artworks.

The first-placers of the competition will have their proposals realized with a few alterations, Bulahan said. But she added that she feels good about her second place finish because it adds up to the better understanding of building materials and public awareness in better-designed architecture that would withstand the harshest of storms and quakes.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 11, 2014.


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