Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 National Architectural Thesis Competition - Entry No. 03

Entry No. 03

Board 01 contains the general overview of the study. Environment has always been a major influence in everyday living. For many years, it serves as a dictating factor on the lifestyle of groups of people including their food classification, clothing material, and the building technology for shelter. People tend to adapt to its existing environment as its automatic response for acquiring its needs for survival.
According to Steele (1997), the most sustainable way of living are those from the traditional societies. These societies live with its surroundings and not against it. With the comparison of the way of living between the past and the present, using available resources is seen as a more responsible and less destructive act. With this, Michael Reynolds, a south-western US architect, founded Earthship Biotecture during the 1970’s. It is a global company promoting the use of a mixture of natural and recycled materials in buildings to contribute in addressing the problem of waste management. For 35 years, he made a study and developed a type of architecture which produces autonomous, off-grid buildings containing the necessary utilities and resources needed for human survival. It follow a set of design principles which include building with natural and recycled materials, use of solar and wind electricity, rainwater harvesting system, contained sewage treatment, thermal/solar heating and cooling, and food production (Eartship Biotecture, 2013).
          This study discusses on the production of a design solution for a residential building for a starting family of three members. The concept of the study revolves around the six design principles of Earthship which make up the building system as an alternative and complementary source of needs for daily human survival. These design principles were considered according to: (1) user needs and requirements and (2) site parameters established from climate analysis and existing conditions of the site.
The concept is seen as an opportunity to build an environmentally responsive structure that mimics the past way of living while catering to the needs and responding properly to the current condition of the present generation. This promotes self-sustaining features in buildings to reduce dependency with public utility lines as means of saving financial resources.
The project is located at Brgy. Mabilao, San Fabian, Pangasinan, Luzon. The site is an inside lot situated within the residential zone of the municipality. It can be accessed from Quezon Highway of about 100 meters through a 6-meter wide alley.
The general building configuration was dictated by the design limitations referenced according to site parameters and applicable building codes and ordinances. This generally considers the lot, zoning of spaces, site response, roof configuration and structure. The building was designed to have separate roof and building support. Roof support is made of bamboo frames and bracing systems to provide adequate support during strong winds while allowing air to pass through. Building support is a combination of reinforced concrete and wood to hold the building especially during earthquakes.
As seen in the board 02, the study utilized the Qualitative method as the approach to come up with a solution for a tropically designed residential building patterned according to the Earthship design principles which define the main concept of the proposal. It applies the research data gathered and collected to the solution.  The study specifying tropical design was based on the importance of climate as a dictating factor in designing earthships. The study is composed of three major steps: (1) establishment of user needs and requirements, (2) climate analysis, and (3) application of earthship design principles. The study involved a number of diversified principles applied in an earthship. Because of the complexity of the disciplines covered by these principles, the researcher consulted and collaborated with the different professionals concerned for determining the proper specification and detailing of each feature. This includes the involvement of an architect, structural engineer, electrical engineer, and agricultural technologist alongside with consultation with the intended users and municipal planning and development office.
User requirements and needs were established through interview with the intended users. Also, the existing residence of the family was observed, documented, and evaluated. Through this, the researcher was able to note other necessary requirements and recognize the problems being encountered by users.

After knowing the needs and requirements of the intended users, analysis of the site was conducted. The site was studied and analyzed according to the climate factors including solar data, temperature, humidity, wind, and rainfall. The data collected were utilized to come up with the site’s Climate Data.  The climate was specified and considered because it served as the basis for the details and specifications of the different utilities of the building.  All the considerations for the climate analysis were based on the data gathered from Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) Weather Station located at Dagupan City. These data, along with site visit, were utilized to make the site analysis. For a more accurate detail of solar data, Motions of the Sun Simulator of the Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project (NAAP) was utilized to determine the sun’s behavior including its altitude and azimuth at a given date.
Board 03 presents the concept of earthship. With the parameters set according to the climate analysis of the site, the researcher considered the Earthship principles according to Earthship Biotecture by Michael Reynolds. These include (1) Comfort in Climate; (2) Building with Natural and Recycled Materials; (3) Solar and Wind Electricity; (4) Water Harvesting; (5) On-site Sewage Treatment; and (6) Food Source.
Comfort in climate considers the building design that responds with the existing climate to introduce comfort for the users. Under this principle, the building was designed according to the climate analysis conducted by the researcher. Bioclimatic chart was utilized to identify the proper passive cooling strategy for the building especially during summer months of March, April and May. Based on the chart, the proper passive cooling system is through natural ventilation. This is achieved through cross ventilation and stack effect through bamboo floors, operable windows, stairwell, and clerestory windows.
The principle of building with natural and recycled materials follows the idea of “taking advantage of what is available; using what is free” (Reynolds, 2013). For natural materials, the researcher considered naturally existing building materials in the municipality. For the recycled materials, the researcher considered junkshops as the main source of materials. These materials were altered and reconstructed to be used in the building. Examples include the use of square based glass bottles as glass boxes and sanding of windshields as substitute for smoked glass. The researcher referred to the municipal hall for the lists of junkshops in operation.
For “Solar and Wind Electricity,” the required load of the building was computed. This covers LED light bulbs, water pump, mini pump for aquaponics, and a television.  The researcher utilized the climatic data as a reference for justifying the feasibility of utilizing solar panels and wind turbine at the site. It was proven that utilizing of wind turbine in the site is not feasible based on the wind resource map by US Department of Energy. The building requires 15 100-watt panels to cover for the annual required load.
“Rainwater Harvesting” feature was detailed based on the computation specified in the book “Inside Out: Design Procedures for Passive Environmental Technologies” and “Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings.” Size of the cistern was designed to contain water to cover the needed load during the 3-month dry season. Along with this feature is the “On-site sewage treatment” where to part of septic tank is covered by a glazing to expose the sewage to sun light to promote faster decomposition. Plumbing lay out was patterned according to the schematics presented by Earthship Biotecture where water is utilized multiple times. In the project, water is utilized 3 times before returning back to soil.
Food source mainly concerns with providing on-site food production. In the study, with the help of a local agricultural technologist and vegetable tool kit by Department of Agriculture, 3 food sources were specified: (1) aquaponics system which provides fish and plants, (2) food garden structured through multiple cropping systems to contain several plants within a small planting space, and (3) chicken coop to provide chicken and eggs.
Board 04 presents the architectural solutions of the study.The single-detached residence was designed to respond to the tropical climate and to function according to the six design principles of Earthship which includes building with natural and recycled materials; solar and wind power; water harvesting system; contained sewage treatment; comfort in climate and cooling; and food production. The limited buildable area shall hold various spaces with diversified functions. The structure was raised on stilts to promote site drainage and undergrowth. The open plan was applied in the interior layout to create illusion of more space. Operable windows and walls were specified to control ventilation, add visual space, and bring the outdoor inside.The design concept mimics the style of local bahay kubo and bahay-na-bato. Since part of the feature is the use of unconventional materials as building material substitute, acceptability of the over-all appearance was a concern.To provide sense of familiarity and belongingness of the building, the reused and recycled materials were reconstructed and altered to provide an “almost finished” look, yet providing clues about the materials being recycled. This is a means to promote and provide additional information about the possibility and beauty of the alternative building technology applied. This study highlights the advantage of alternative building system and designing in a holistic approach with the existing ecology and not against it to improve the lives of people and the condition of the existing environment.


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