Greener BeeGreen LivingGreen living, Pinoy style

By Joyce Reyes-Aguila

Green architecture isnt a matter of putting solar panels on a house. Everything has to be consideredfrom the use of local materials, to the layout and positioning of key areas of the house.

Green architecture isn’t a matter of putting solar panels on a house. Everything has to be considered—from the use of local materials, to the layout and positioning of key areas of the house.

It used to be simple: human beings built their shelter out of what surrounded them and based on their needs. Whatever was near proved useful; and it was enough.

“Architecture back then (pre-20th century) was really based on climatic and cultural influence,” explains Miguel Angelo “Gelo” Mañosa, chief executive officer of Mañosa Company, Inc. Houses built from stone utilized the material, not only because it was readily available, but functional as well—providing indoor warmth for those who lived in very cold climate, the architect adds.

Truly, Mañosa, who holds a masters degree in Design Science to go with his graduate certificate in Architecture, Energy, and Environment from the University of Sydney, is rooting his explanation of so-called “green architecture” in history. To best explain the concept, he takes Panorama through the story of how green architecture came to be. Instead of just giving the textbook answer that man must not mortgage his future for his needs and wants today, Mañosa builds the story pretty much like how he probably creates a home—step by step. This exactly is how sustainability in design, environmental design or climate-conscious architecture, came to be.

A section of Amanpulos public area allows outside in while maximizing natural light

A section of Amanpulo’s public area allows outside in while maximizing natural light

Environment-based architecture

When other people were building using stone, the Ifugaos, Maranoas, Tausugs, and other indigenous communities in the Philippines were also building their homes from what was in their environment and based on their lifestyle.

“The Ifugao house is on stilts primarily because it’s a granary,” the architect says as he starts to sketch early Filipino homes. “It’s made of grass because cogon was found all over the rice terraces. The stilts had rat guards to keep the rats away from the granary. It was a one-bedroom, one-floor home with the granary on top where they kept the rice. Under the floor were stones. When the sun would hit the stones during the day, they would pick up all the energy, all the heat. At night, that would radiate the heat. (That is vital since) the Mountain Province has a relatively cold climate. And that’s how the culture (there) developed.”

Architect Miguel Angelo Maosa: Green architecture has many facets. Its not just saying that house is green There are many things that make a building green.

Architect Miguel Angelo Mañosa: “Green architecture has many facets. It’s not just saying ‘that house is green’ There are many things that make a building green.”

The Maranaos, known as “the people of the lake,” were boat builders whose relationship with the water is signified with the inverted boat-shaped roofs their houses had. Similar to their contemporaries around the world, their homes were “very cultural and climate-based,” Mañosa explains

Before the trappings of modern living, Mañosa opines that “architects had to think a little bit more about the way they designed a structure only because they had to understand certain things, like where prevailing winds came from, how the sun hit different parts of the house at different times. You can end up with a really dark house. When you see the way the bahay kubo (nipa hut) evolved (after) we were introduced to the bahay na bato(stone house) or Spanish houses, the latter were made of clay roof tiles. We had the adobe stone underneath where the carosas would end up parking. The window profiles would allow for banderillas at the bottom and capiz windows on the top to allow ventilation and natural daylight. And again, these are all part of climatic conditions. (They used) clay roof tiles because the material was found on many of the riversides where these houses were built. They were still ‘smart’ houses and, you could say very environmentally friendly houses.”

Things eventually changed as inventions yielded concepts such as artificial light and air conditioning. “It started giving architects more freedom in designing without really having to think too much about climatic conditions. The invention of light allowed us now to enclose spaces, which typically you’d leave open. You could create spaces that do not have any windows because you now have the air conditioner, which could cool a space. Somehow, architects, in general started to become lazy. They would design maybe based more on ego than what is practical or good for the environment.”

Non-intrinsic materials

Mañosa says architects began using materials not intrinsic to a location, a direct result of the advent of transportation. This continued in the Industrial Age where new materials were easily moved. When steel came into play, it made lighter and taller structures possible.

“Architecture started to evolve,” he continues. “Those were really exciting times but we started really enjoying and basking in using fossil fuels and energy to its very limits. I think it started about 1968 until about the 1970s when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), or oil-producing nations got together and started to ask: How far can we enjoy this orgy of consuming the world’s carbon energy? How long will it be before we use up the last drop of oil or piece of coal?”

Through these questions, people started being concerned, continues Mañosa. “At the time they realized, ‘Yes, there is an end! We will finish all the fossil fuels eventually,’ was pretty much the first real energy crisis the world faced (around) the early ’70s. I think the price of oil jumped from about $2 or $3 a barrel to $20-something to a barrel. The world felt there is an end to it. That’s when people started becoming more conscious.”

Globally, he maintains that there was a “good push” for the environment during the 1970s. Concepts and efforts like recycling received support. But Mañosa says that after some time, OPEC nations realized that new sources, including the advent of nuclear power, were taking business away from them. The University of Santo Tomas alumnus says that when it was made known there necessarily wasn’t an energy crisis, “everyone kind of forgot about the problem or need to not depend on fossil fuel or oil too much.”

A new energy crisis occurred in the late ’90s when oil prices skyrocketed to $32 a barrel. “The world again woke up,” Mañosa explains. “But we weren’t even talking about climate change at that time–just about the world’s fossil fuels and how we were going to deplete it. In the ’90s, weather patterns started to change and they started calling it global warming.

“It was the ‘in’ word because they were saying that the world is getting hotter. But really, climates were changing… so the coined term became climate change. Some parts of the world (are) becoming colder, some parts hotter. Some locations, like ours, are getting more violent storms.”

Picture windows at Amanpulo promote cross ventilation while giving guests beautiful vistas of the sea

Picture windows at Amanpulo promote cross ventilation while giving guests beautiful vistas of the sea

Climate change advocacy

Mañosa, who counts Australia’s The Hermitage and Davao’s Lanikal Resort as some of the many projects under his belt, believes the advocacy for climate change is strong these days because people feel its effects. “To be honest, those that still do not believe in climate change are the same guys who think the world is still flat.”

Mañosa Company, established by his father Francisco Mañosa, over two decades ago, is pillared on the belief “that architecture must be true to itself, its land, and its people.”

“My father has always believed that, and those are his words. He always says that every building we design must always have a contribution to architecture. And that contribution, if you’re building it in the Philippines, should be rightfully for Philippine culture, Philippine climate, and the Filipino,” he says.

Mañosa, a member of the Australia and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, says the firm always looks at the fundamentals of the bahay kubo—“an architecture without an architect, based on purely culture and climate. We modernized it and that’s how we express our architecture. We’re just adopting the same principles but using new materials, technology, and design forms—things that excite the senses of a client. And that’s pretty much kind of evolved.”

Even when the elder Mañosa spoke about Philippine culture instead of green architecture, his son says “he would have a hell of a time convincing our clients (that they) should design Filipino. He will not say you should design green. My father has a strong advocacy for local culture. At that time that he was pushing architecture, he was really doing fantastic and wondrous buildings. I’d say my dad’s golden years in architecture were between the ’70s and the ’80s, and even well into the early ’90s.

Amanpulo's architecture and landscaping arent Balinese. Nor are they Thai or Mediterranean. Theyre Architect Gelo Maosas idea of Filipino architecture

Amanpulo’s architecture and landscaping aren’t Balinese. Nor are they Thai or Mediterranean. They’re Architect Gelo Mañosa’s idea of Filipino architecture

Very few takers

“You’ve got to think of what the Philippines was in those years. It was during the Marcos era, the Aquino era, (and when we had) the (People Power) revolution. Back then, if you said “Philippine architecture,” it was considered bakya (cheap) or baduy (tacky). We went funny. We went from post-modernism to a Mediterranean look to Asian contemporary, Balinese modern to even Mexican-inspired architecture for some. But no one ever said, ‘Let’s design Pinoy,’ He’s always been very vocal about that. Did it shrink our market? You bet. Our market was a small niche of group of people who believed in it. It took a lot of convincing.”

One of Francisco Mañosa’s best-known works is The Coconut Palace. The younger Mañosa says his father was designated by then First Lady Imelda Marcos to build a house to be called “Tahanang Pilipino” (Filipino Home). More than a million coconut trees that were “tall, long, aging, and not producing fruit” were being replaced with hybrid coconut trees, which were shorter and produced more fruit since they were young.

“(My father worked with) 13 inventors from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños,” the founding member of the Philippine Green Building Council recalls of construction that took place from 1978 to 1981, or a period of over 14 months. “They developed products like chandeliers, lights, fabrics, you name it. And arguably, I can honestly say that that the (Coconut) Palace really got us started in the industry in terms of using local products. Seven out of those 13 inventors are in giant companies today. One of them who was doing a lot of the abaca products (is now producing) all the fabric and carpets for Mercedes-Benz vehicles.”

Through the Coconut Palace, Mañosa says that products from bamboo, coconut, and rattan were invented. Today, these are considered common materials used in different ways. “The use of these indigenous materials in itself was already a good way to help the local industry and without (my father) even knowing (it), he was developing an industry through this architecture.”

Over the years, Mañosa Company, Inc. has remained committed to pushing for green architecture and has translated its principles in various projects that include residential communities, resorts, and various business and educational establishments. In the metro, the company has designed the San Miguel Building in Pasig City, La Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City, and the EDSA Shrine. Around the country, its expertise is seen in the Amanpulo Resort in Palawan, Pearl Farm in Davao, and the Eskaya Resort in Bohol. The firm also recently won the design bid for the new Supreme Court building, which is set to break ground in 2019.

Green architecture defined

In 2013, Mañosa Company, Inc. completed Ylang Lane, a pioneer project in clustered development for the country’s BERDE (Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence) rating system. The Philippine Green Council Building recognized the community’s respect for the environment.

Green architecture has many facets, according to Mañosa. “It’s not just saying ‘that house is green.’ There are many things that make a building green. It can be as simple as the site selection, where it sits, or materials flow, if materials are bought in or not, whether they’re recycled or not, where they come from. It’s also about the types of material used—if they are local or indigenous, if it helps the local industry, and how they are processed as well.”

Simply putting solar panels atop a building does not make it green, he insists. To determine if a structure is environmentally sustainable, some aspects to be considered include the amount of energy it uses, its water conservation measures, indoor air quality, among others.

“When we talk about green architecture in the Philippines, some are greener than others. Some (structures) are yellowish green, some are hard-core. It has a lot to do with the architect, the client, types of legislation that are put in place and, of course, funding that allows a project to go one way or the other,” he says.

Around the world and in some parts of the country are incentives that encourage green architecture. Tax relief and subsidies are given and backed up by law. These are the factors that can drive a person or company to decide to go green, the architect says.

Climate and culture

With the many offerings in the market, Mañosa returns to the two principles: climate and culture. The slew of residential offerings that claim to be inspired by houses abroad do not allow Filipinos to culturally fit into a space. Homeowners should be aware that structures built to adapt to a foreign climate may not necessarily adapt in Manila, resulting to a “disconnect between users and the way it’s built,” the architect says.

In analyzing the carbon footprint of any person, all things should be taken into account: How a household is run, how a person travels to and from his place of work, worship, or recreation. He says the city is one of the greenest forms of structure that man has ever made because it condenses all his needs within a small vicinity.

At the end of the day, Mañosa avers that it all boils down to having the right mindset. This is the key to finding the initiative to take a long hard look in the mirror to determine our impact “to the energy flow of what the earth needs to survive, to make us survive. The perception of how one thinks ‘green’ living is what needs to be balanced.”

That’s one way to get us started on the right path—the one our ancestors knew all along.

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