Mapúa faculty and students take part in first eco-friendly shelters for urban poor project

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The first eco-friendly, on-site shelter under the Estero de San Miguel Project was unveiled recently. The housing project is intended to house urban poor living in the Legarda and Quiapo areas. Photo shows Arch. Albert S. Zambrano (center), Mapúa ARIDBE Dean Gloria B. Teodoro (third from left), and Arch. Aristeo Garcia (second from left), coordinator of the Social Orientation and Community Involvement Program Office. Surrounding them are Mapúa and exchange Swedish students.

Mapúa Institute of Technology professor Arch. Albert S. Zambrano and renowned Arch. Felino A. Palafox Jr. spearheaded the conceptualization and designs of the first eco-friendly, in-city shelters intended to provide decent and affordable housing to almost 400 families.

Known as the Estero de San Miguel Project, the housing program was initiated by the Urban Poor Associates, a non-government organization, and the people's organization Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Legarda, who is also the beneficiary of the project.

The three-storey unit, which was unveiled recently, occupies a 28-square-meter lot and can house two families. Six units are expected to be built on public land and 12 on private land.

Zambrano encourages professional and student architects to design shelters and structures that are eco-friendly, replicable, and can withstand the demands of the country's environmental situation.

"The devastation brought by super typhoon Yolanda is just one of the effects of taking the environment for granted. We need to design our shelters and structures in a way that is in harmony with the natural environment. If we want a safe and prosperous future, then today's generation needs to be trained in sustainable development and how to care for the environment that sustains all of us," he said.

He also said that reduction of household expenses and resilience to calamities were the major considerations in designing the shelters.

"We considered how people who will be living in those houses can reduce household expenses and at the same time increase their income," he said.

Each unit uses natural light and ventilation, and has green wall made from steel matting suitable for edible landscaping. Each also has its own rainwater or grey-water tank made from recycled plastic drums that can reduce water consumption and save on water bills.

The rainwater harvesting system will allow the residents to collect water during the rainy season, while the grey-water reuse system will allow recycling of household waste water.

The architect also said that the durability of the shelters was carefully studied to ensure that they are earthquake- and flood-resistant.

The three-storey unit occupies a 24-square-meter lot and can house two families. Units of this first in-city shelter will be built to benefit 105 informal settler families (ISF) on Legarda Street and 260 ISFs on P. Casal Street, both along Estero de San Miguel; 149 ISFs in Estero de San Sebastian; and 63 in Estero de Quiapo.

"The foundation is 1.5 meters deep. We did it because the soil along the Estero de San Miguel is soft. The materials used are also in compliance with the building code. It can withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake with repairable damage and will not collapse in a magnitude 8 earthquake," he said.

The units are designed to minimize the infestation and propagation of rats and cockroaches, too.

The applied green design principles allowed use of less materials and energy. Zambrano, however, clarified that the project is not "low-cost housing" but "affordable shelter." He said that the dwellers can afford the house because they will have saved on transportation, energy, water, repairs, and maintenance expenses living in the houses.

With the goal of replicating the project in other parts of the country, Zambrano, who were joined by select Mapúa student architects, used reinforced concrete as the primary material combined with re-used, recycled, and native materials. They also made use of simple construction methods familiar to ordinary construction workers to make way for job creation.

Teaching Urban and Regional Planning and Building Information Modeling courses at Mapúa School of Architecture, Industrial Design, and the Built Environment (ARIDBE), Zambrano involves his students in social housing projects to make them experience how it is like to work in the real world.

After typhoon Ondoy wreaked havoc in Metro Manila in 2009, ARIDBE started to include green architecture in its curriculum. It also works closely with the Philippine Green Building Council to develop various green building rating systems. ARIDBE received the 2012 Urban Poor Person of the Year Award, an award recognizing an individual or institution's contribution and continuous commitment to alleviate the plight of the urban poor.