The Surfer that Builds Eco-houses

Meet surfer-architect Mong Rodriguez, a UST architecture alumnus taking on private projects. Arch Mong enjoys the conceptualization and design creativity needed to make ideas reality and spent 5 years honing his skills at LV Locsin and Partners designing high end houses before starting on his own. I sat down with Arch Mong in his beautifully design project in Aurora province to discuss his views on the industry.

1

Dreams for the Industry:

Arch Mong hopes that product choices for materials used in construction will improve. He gave examples of how, in other countries, there are a lot of ready to mix concrete sets, better tools and overall better access to a variety of materials. In the Philippines, choices are limited, and cement mixes are done manually so it takes more time. The higher product quality will lead to faster, and better builds.

He also hopes that architects and construction companies contribute more to sustainability. Buildings, he says, play a huge role in carbon emissions. Even if all the cars in the world stopped working, only a small part of the carbon would decrease because buildings consume the lion’s share of energy on a regular basis. He suggests that new buildings should take into account how much carbon they produce, so that they are more sensitive to a world with climate change.

2

Unfortunately Arch. Mong says that not everyone can afford sustainability. People still try to save money in the short term. He feels that there should be more tax breaks or incentives for green materials so that people are encouraged to implement sustainability plans and not just “value engineer” them. What they need to understand though is that if a building is built in a sustainable manner, then it is cheaper to maintain. More education needs to be given to owners, as well as architects. Another brilliant suggestion Arch. Mong gave was to have an architect represent the profession in government so that the needs of the industry can be communicated and addressed properly.

Some examples of sustainability features that Arch. Mong provides are cross ventilation – orienting the house and its windows towards the direction of the wind. Another is making sure the orientation of the house protects the interior from direct sunlight to keep the heat away.

Third is his push for local products. The construction industry is mainly an import-based one. Arch. Mong knows that if he uses locally made materials, not only does he support the local economy but the carbon foot print of the items is much lower as well due to reduced travel by the product to its project.

A fourth suggestion is the creation of a national construction identity that is different from the Bahay Kubo or BahaynaBato. With so much creativity, and so many materials, the Philippines should come up with a signature design that is modern yet uniquely Filipino.

Materials

One thing that Arch. Mong sees as an opportunity is wood. Though some may doubt its strength, he points out that sometimes, saws overheat when working with quality wood. The log bans make it difficult to buy even sustainably sourced wood. For his Aurora project, he had to buy wood from Manila rather than locally where the forest is plentiful, ironically increasing the carbon footprint on his sustainably sourced materials. One solution here would be to set up sustainable sourcing for wood in each province which can really help the local economy. With an unbeatable “warming” effect on the room, wood is definitely an item that is here to stay.

5 mango wood planks and powder coated solid flat bars by the beach

Another trend that he sees staying for good are pre-fabricated items which area easier to install as a lot of the technical assembly can be done prior to site arrival. This is one way to speed up the construction of different buildings. With the increasing scale of the Philippines, prices are expected to stay put or drop.

How to Increase Sustainability in the Industry:

Should practitioners want to improve on their sustainability the best thing to do is to research…and it would help if a library of materials was available online. Specifically, Arch Mong wants design-based principles such as cross ventilation, sunlight angle planning and roof colour coating for reduced heat to be part of the basic process. He has also experimented in using Eco-bricks – bottles tightly packed with plastic trash by The Plastic Solution, to build a bike hub for GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan.

6 a bike hub and workshop by the plastic solution, gawad kalinga and jci manila

Arch Mong also shared that it would be beneficial for Environmental Departments and Architects to collaborate on studying trees that they can include into their designs. After all, the Philippines is a country highly touted for its natural beauty – why shouldn’t it be part of a Filipino design?

Finally, Arch Mong suggested increasing mindfulness regarding the effects of materials and buildings by citing the concrete island effect. When an area is built with concrete without any shade, the heat is reflected off the walls and it makes the area very hot for those passing by. The heat of concrete without shade can be up to 33 degrees Celsius hotter than an area with shade.

10

This is something that architects should take into account so that those inside and outside the structure can be comfortable.

Advice for Those Building for the first time:

Arch. Mong suggests to get proper professionals and to take a look at their back ground. When you don’t know what you are doing, it’s best to pay the professionals because you might make a costly mistake. They can even help you learn how to do simple construction changes in the future. Additionally, a good architect can help you manage expenses vis-à-vis quality. The problem is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, people charge high and getting an experience practitioner can help you here.

Another thought he shared was that the cheapest is not necessarily the best option. When prices are cut, quality goes down and mistakes are more likely to happen.

So if you’re looking for an architect who can help you set up on the beach, or for a similarly styled building, please contact Arch. Mong Rodriguez at rommel@rvrchitecture.com or follow his work on instragram at @rvrchitecture

Written by Rafael Dionisio

Advertisements