If Speedy were to design our next house, it would look something like the one in the photo above. Well, probably not as large because that is the bishop’s palace next to the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City. We don’t have access to parishioner’s donations to live so grandly so we’ll settle for something we can afford and one that is sized just right for us. But the design is what Speedy considers ideal for our warm and often humid weather — brick walls for the ground floor, wood for the second level, large windows practically side by side with sliding vents underneath for maximum natural ventilation.
I like the general idea too except for the red bricks. I’d rather have something beige. I always thought the option was adobe in lieu of bricks but, according to a cousin who is a professional interior designer, bricks come in so many colors now that it is possible to build a beige-colored brick house.
And the windows? Do I want those many windows? Oh, yes, and the vents underneath too. The better the air can circulate around the rooms of the house, the less chance of heat getting trapped inside. And that is important especially in summer.
I don’t know what it is about Philippine architectural trends these days. Windows are getting smaller and fewer as though we’re just meant to live with air-conditioning. With the price of electricity in this country (the highest in Southeast Asia), more and larger windows should help ease the dependence on air-conditioning.
I’ve always wondered too at the choice of galvanized iron for roofing which turns the rooms in the uppermost floor into side-by-side ovens during the summer months. Our house has roof tiles (read about the chicken on the roof) but until we moved here, we’ve lived with galvanized iron. The house where I grew up in had a galvanized iron roof. The house where Speedy grew up in had galvanized iron roof. So did our first suburban house. So I know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that living in a house with galvanized iron roof can be punishing.
It’s the cost, I’ve been told more than once. Galvanized iron is cheap; roof tiles are expensive. So, unless the client has deep pockets, architects choose the cheaper option. But then I think about what creative people have been doing with all the lahar in Central Luzon following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 — yes, roof tiles have been fashioned from lahar — and there really is no reason why roof tiles need to be so darn pricey considering that the raw material can be had for free and the supply is staggering. And still architects are building houses with galvanized iron roofs. Where’s the logic?
And then there’s the shrinking distance between the floor and the ceiling. Heck the farther the ceiling is from the floor, the better the ventilation. But in a country where econo-housing is all the rage, even the law endorses bad design. Here are the current minimum requirements for a residential dwelling according to the National Building Code of the Philippines:
- (a) Dwelling Location and Lot Occupancy. The dwelling shall occupy not more than 90 per cent of a corner lot and 80 per cent of an inside lot, and subject to the provisions on easements of light and view of the Civil Code of the Philippines, shall be at least 2.00 meters (6 feet, inches) from the property line.
- (b) Light and Ventilation. Every dwelling shall be so constructed and arranged as to provide adequate light and ventilation.
- (1) Habitable rooms, bathrooms, toilet rooms and utility rooms shall have a height of not less than 2.40 meters (8 feet), measured from floor to ceiling.
- (2) Rooms shall have a minimum size of 6.00 square meters (65 square feet) with a least horizontal dimension of 2.00 meters (6 feet, 7 inches) for rooms of human habitations; 3.00 square meters (32 feet) with a least horizontal dimension of 1.50 meters (5 feet) for kitchens; and 1.20 square meters (13 square feet) with a least horizontal dimension of 90 centimeters (3 feet) for bathrooms.
- (3) Windows shall be at least 1/10th of the floor area of the room.
If the minimum floor area of a room is 6 square meters then the minimum required size of a window is 0.6 square meters. Seriously? Is that even humane?
If we get to build another house, no architect will dictate how many and how small the windows will be. He won’t get to decide either what roofing material will be used. The architect will execute the design but Speedy and I will do the designing ourselves — the floor areas of each room, the distance between the floor and the ceiling, the number, size and placement of the windows, the roofing material… everything.