Developer gives tips on building structures for extreme weather conditions

November 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

It is possible to build homes, buildings — and even cities — that have a much better chance of withstanding super typhoons and other extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change.

This is according to an Italian architect and expert on green building and sustainable architecture who is offering to contribute his skills to help rebuild Leyte and the other parts of the Visayas that have been recently devastated by typhoon Yolanda.

“Buildings and cities can be planned, designed and developed to minimize and in some cases avoid damage created by 20-foot storm surges and other extreme conditions,” said Architect Romolo V. Nati, Executive Chairman and CEO of ITALPINAS Euroasian Design and Eco-Development Corporation (ITPI), a real estate company that specializes in the design and development of sustainable buildings.

The second deadliest typhoon on record, Yolanda (Haiyan), slammed into Eastern Visayas early this month, killing thousands, destroying at least a million houses and leaving millions homeless.  On Sunday, Yolanda’s death toll was over 5,000 and still rising.

Much of the destruction was caused by the super strong winds and the storm surge brought by the Category 5 typhoon.

Opportunity to rebuild damaged communities

“I feel very sad for the Filipinos in Tacloban City in Leyte who have to deal with the death and destruction brought by Yolanda, and I would like to help them get back on their feet,” said Nati, who has made the Philippines his adoptive home for four years.

“But I would like to remind them that in every loss, there is also opportunity,” he said.  “With most of Tacloban City in Leyte and Guiuan in Samar flattened by the storm, there is now a chance to develop the master plans of the new cities and towns — sustainable master plans that take into account the need to survive typhoons and build sustainable habitats.

Adopting an ‘Aikido strategy’

To build structures that can weather storms better, Nati suggests adopting an Aikido strategy. Aikido is a Japanese martial art in which practitioners don’t oppose their attackers head on but instead flow with the motion of the attacker to redirect the force of the attack.

“Where building is concerned, this ‘Aikido strategy’ involves incorporating architectural features such as perforated facades and inner courtyards that minimize the opposition of buildings to storm surges and strong winds brought by typhoons,” Nati said. “Of course building structures that are elevated from the ground will also help protect the building from flash floods during storms.”

“For settlements along coastal areas, erecting buildings with all their load-bearing walls positioned perpendicular — and not in opposition — to the sea can help withstand tsunamis.  Open room-to-room designs that minimize obstruction in the event of overpowering flow of water can also help,” Nati added.

“These and other similar design features will ensure that while strong surges may damage the buildings — and inhabitants would need to heed evacuation advice — the buildings’ superstructures, at least, will survive to be restored and reused,” he said.

Structures that withstand storm

Tower 1 of the Primavera Residences, ITPI’s mixed-use, condominium complex in Cagayan de Oro City incorporated eco-friendly features that helped it survive the deadly Storm Sendong that flattened many buildings in that city and in nearby Iligan City in December 2011.

Also, Nati said: “On ordinary days, unobstructed air flow is part of Primavera’s design function as a natural ventilation system that lowers temperature and slashes air-conditioning costs,” Nati said, adding: “During Sendong, this also worked to lessen the impact of strong winds on the tower by rerouting rather than obstructing overpowering winds.”

While property developers are becoming more and more active in Mindanao, Primavera Residences is probably the first and only sustainable building in Mindanao.

This is because ITPI — despite being a young developer — invests most of its resources in its in-house research and design (RD) department that looks into architecture in extreme conditions and studies ways to build in challenging environments. Formed by the Italian architect in 2009 in partnership with Filipino lawyer Jojo Leviste, ITPI is an affiliate of the renewable energy firm Constellation Energy Corp.

Building on high ground

“Some features of sustainability include proper zoning or concentrating living spaces in higher areas, in places 50 to 100 meters above sea level,” the Italian architect said.

Then, there’s the civil works component, such as building dikes and storm walls, as well as drainage channels to facilitate the flow of storm waters into the sea, he added.

Moreover, he said buildings can also be designed to withstand extreme conditions by adopting hydrodynamic and aerodynamic shapes, for instance, or incorporating perforated facades that lower the impact of strong winds.

“All of ITPI’s developments incorporate design features that are energy-saving in non-emergency conditions. In emergency conditions, these same features mitigate the impact of extreme weather,” he added.

Multi-awarded architect

Nati graduated summa cum laude in architecture from the La Sapienza University in Rome, has a Masters in Urban Landscape and Layers from the University of Tallin in Estonia, and is about to finish his Executive Masters in Business Administration from the Asian Institute of Management.

He has a remarkable track record in design, architecture and real estate development in the Philippines and in Europe. His work has been recognized by many organizations across the world and he has won many international competitions.

In 2011, his “Coral City Concept” bested 200 entries from 50 countries to bag the Special Energy Award in the “Design Against the Elements (DAtE) International Design Competition sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Climate Change Commission and the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), and other institutions.

Climate change

Both political leaders and climatologists have connected typhoon Yolanda’s strength to climate change. Over the decade, many studies by climatologists have correlated the increasing intensity of storms with the progression of global warming.

During the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was held at the same time typhoon Yolanda lashed the Philippines, Yeb Saño, the lead negotiator of the country’s delegation received a standing ovation when he declared a hunger strike. The strike was meant to push international delegates to finally adopt concrete measures to mitigate and adapt to the warming global temperatures caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels.

“Clearly, we need to erect developments that take into account the reality of climate change and are thus capable of withstanding worsening disasters”, Nati said.

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