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Design

Design, of course, is where it all starts.  Whether you are building from the ground up or retro-fitting a home to be green in the Philippines, you will want to think ahead and comprehensively, so that you can maximize the returns on your investment.  Green Homes Philippines is all about maximizing results and return on time and money invested in bringing making that home a reality.  


DESIGN RECOMMENDATIONS

 Some nuts-and-bolts recommendations from us on what you should consider when developing the design of your green home in the Philippines.


Construction Methodology. The Philippines has  been designing and constructing homes based on the old system of poured concrete using built-on-site temporary wooden forms with walls finished out with concrete hollow blocks.  This is a very intensive process labor, material and time-wise.  Dry or wooden walls are not really recommendable, considering the frequency of typhoons in the Philippines.  There is also the seismic consideration to factor in, although there is not that much of an issue for low-rise structures. Nevertheless, rigidity does have its advantages. 


In this aspect, we advocate the consideration of prefabricated wall panels that are factory-built to the custom design specification.  A good system will factor in the wall panels as the concrete form which will finish-ready as soon as the pour is done.  This greatly reduces cost in labor and materials.  One disadvantage of this system is that it can make the home much less available to significant changes in the walls since the walls themselves become integral parts of the load-bearing system.  If you want flexibility in the walls for the future, you will have to design with that consideration ahead of time.  


One main advantage of prefabricated wall systems is that they can be fitted with a layer of polystyrene on the outer wall which will literally cut heat gain and overnight radiation into the living spaces.  If you take advantage of this opportunity, you will turn your home into a virtual ice box where once cooled by air-conditioning, you will no longer have to consider heat gain by external factors.  Your only heat considerations will be internal factors such as number of people and heat from electrical appliances.  A great upside to using polystyrene inserts is that also creates a significant sound barrier that will reduce ambient noise.  You will be very thankful for this performance improvement, no matter where in the Philippines you chose to build.  


Another advantage of prefabricated systems is that poured walls are ballistic rated.  You will be very safe even in the event of super-typhoon direct hit.  

 

Site Considerations.  The parcel of land you will build on and its relationship with surrounding features is probably the one of the biggest considerations in design development.  

Topography or the shape of your land will drive a lot of your design decisions.  You will want to manage light, shade, wind, noise, view, privacy, rain, utilities and access for your site and integrate your management decisions into the overall design.  Its no small task and effective management of these considerations will have significant impact on your construction costs during the build phase but will also significantly impact your ownership costs over the long haul.

Maximize passive cooling using cross-ventilation.  Maximize natural lighting using window openings and other translucent materials such as glass blocks.  Bear in mind that ordinary glass or poorly thought-out openings can easily result in unwanted heat gain which will drive up your cooling costs.  On the other hand, heat gain via UV exposure is also something that you may want, particularly during the rainy season where we can have weeks on end of incessant rain with 80% humidity.  Using UV light and heat gain can help you keep unwanted organic growth under check.  

Interiors.  Strategic design and use of materials can deliver great results here, so make sure you maximize this other significant opportunity. 


Orient window openings to achieve the light, ventilation, privacy and ambient noise performance characteristics you desire.  Consider opening materials and adjacent materials carefully.  Bear in mind that low-emissivity glass laminates are available in the Philippines.  Use translucent materials where light is needed along low heat gain and privacy is desired.  Bear in mind that aluminum frames absorb and radiate heat very well.  Consider paint, covers or other materials such as PVC or wood.  Bear in mind that not all PVC are created equal.  Cheaper PVC windows will yellow or powder very quickly.  Consider prefabricated windows for the advantages of better sound and leak performance as well as after-sales support.  We insist that you avoid fabricated-on-site windows at all costs.

Orient cabinets to maximize room insulation for heat and ambient noise.  Your clothes will benefit from the heat that the air-conditioning in your room does not need.  

Floor treatment is important.  Its very dusty in the Philippines, no matter where you go.  Wall to wall carpeting is great in colder climates and they do provide noise insulation but here they simply serve as traps for dust, allergens and unwanted creatures.  Use hardy materials such as marble, granite or some nice vitrified tiles for exposed and high-traffic areas.  Use woods for low-traffic areas.  

Stone like marble or granite is also great for counter tops.  You want to minimize the number of grouting joints for maintenance purposes.  Use larger stone cuts where you can.  Similarly, we recommend that you use larger tiles in bathrooms to reduce the number of joints that need to maintained and to cut down the opportunities for unwanted organic growth.

Use mirrors and other reflective surfaces strategically.  Properly done, you can bring natural sunlight deep into interiors.  Conversely, you will also want to create buffers to reduce light or visibility into or from certain areas of your house.  We recommend you think flexible in this aspect.  There will be times you want to be more open and times where you will want less openness.

Light your home strategically as well.  A well-lit home is a healthy home.  Design multiple lighting systems so that you can create moods in your home to suit you.  We recommend that each room be outfitted with a general lighting fixture in the middle of the ceiling, augmented with lighting in the corners.  Use them separately or in combination to fir your mood of the moment.

Planing.  The orientation and relationship of individual rooms and their components such as storage is very important.  Do a virtual walk-through of your design as many times as you can to get a feel of the place before you commit to final.  Pay special attention to living and entertaining areas as well as service areas and access points for services and machinery like pumps, washer and dryer.  


Ownership Costs.  There are many designs that looked great on paper but wind up costly to own.  You will want to make sure yours is not one of them.  Again, good management of passive light and ventilation, ambient noise, view and privacy are critical considerations.  

You will also want to consider servicing costs some years down the line.  No pipes last forever, so you will eventually have to service or replace water and drainage lines.  Consider also that you may want to add lighting fixtures or even windows.  Make sure these considerations are factored in during the design phase.  Many house require too much electrical lighting even while the sun outside is blindingly bright.  Make sure your green home doesn't make that mistake.


Stability of electrical power in residential has always been an issue in the Philippines.  Look to invest in renewable energy such as solar or wind solutions.  The uptake in interest in renewable energy has made its way into the Philippines and there is a growing number of vendors to choose.  By our calculations you can get your kitchen off the grid for as low as Php200,000.00.  Considering the abundance of available solar energy in our tropical region, it is a great waste to ignore the significant cost-savings (and power failure hedge) that these solutions currently offer.



Construction Material Prices in the Philippines

Why is it so very difficult to research construction material prices online in the Philippines? Everyone seems to want their prices to be opaque.  Well, if you need reference prices and costs for your project, look no further.  Check out our Productspage http://www.greenhomesphilippines.com/products for a comprehensive list of construction material prices as of September, 2010.

Cooling Energy:  Stop paying for losses

You spent a good amount on electricity to cool your bedrooms at night but have you considered how much of your money is simply bleeding out from the space under your door?  

Remember, cooler air drops, so the cooling that your buying with your electric bill is always finding its way to the space under your door and escaping.  This is a waste that you do not have to take lying down (pun intended).  Go to a good hardware like, Ace, TrueValue or some equivalent and buy a weather strip for your door.  It'll run you about Php1,500 and come in a variety of finishes from wood grain finish or brushed aluminum or plain painted white.  The weather strip itself comes in a variety of materials and applications from outdoor applications to help prevent splash seepage to indoor applications.  

But what you need and then measure it up and cut it to size.  Mount it so that the weather strip actually drags on the floor when you open and close the door to ensure you get a good seal and stop paying for lost cooling.

Another upside is that it also reduces one more possible entry point for pests like cockroaches.  No sense making it easy for them, right?  And while we're at it, go over your baseboards, ceiling moldings and window openings and apply clear silicone sealant anywhere you see or suspect a gap.  Again, you reduce cooling costs and reduce pest entry points.  

Concrete Hollow Blocks:  Time for something new and improved.


We recommend that new projects ditch the hollow block construction that still prevails in the Philippines and adopt a modular wall system that uses fiber-cement boards as the pouring forms and double as the finish, requiring only a skim coat and some water-based latex.  

Modular wall systems cut the construction time roughly in half and cost by about 30% if not more by greatly reducing the wastage associated with CHB construction.  

For even better results, add a 1/4" layer of polystyrene along the outer panel/form and your house is mega-insulated against heat and sound.  Your air-conditioning will run much more efficiently, reducing electrical costs.  The other major upside is the increased protection from the neighbors chickens and singing machine.  

Window Openings:  Strategic Tropical Design Opportunity  

posted Oct 18, 2009 10:43 AM by James Mirasol   [ updated Sep 15, 2010 4:12 PM ]

Perforations are a critical aspect of tropical and energy-efficient design.  Unfortunately, many designers and homeowners still consider them as afterthoughts, not realizing that these are actually critical considerations in heat-gain and/or cooling loss.  

Maximize openings to capitalize on cross-ventilation.  This not only reduces your passive-cooling but also helps keep the air healthier when the 6-month rainy season rolls along which increases moldy buildup.  Well-planned openings also brings in UV light from the sun which also combats unwanted biological growth.  

Balance your southern exposure well.  Remember, the Philippines is in the Northern hemisphere.  This means that anything facing true south is effectively in the sun, collecting heat from sunrise to sunset.  

Use reflective surfaces like mirrors to bring sunlight into interiors and pay special attention to areas that are prone to moisture like bathrooms and utility areas.  

Invest in laminated our double-glazed windows.  Laminated glass is marginally more costly than ordinary glass but you get a great payoff in terms of heat-gain resistance by up to 90%.  Another great upside is increased security.  Safety laminated glass takes hours to cut through with an axe.  Burglars want an easy in and easy out and laminated glass denies them that requirement.  Another upside then is the option to do away with unsightly wrought-iron grills.  
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