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'Adaptive architecture' as a means to cope with flooding

After Ondoy and last year's Sendong, Filipinos these past few weeks found themselves having to go through a similar calamity all over again.
This, despite flood-control efforts such as the Metro Manila Development Authority's Estero Blitz cleanup and the ongoing Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement.
The Estero Blitz cleanup resulted in 7,383 cubic meters of garbage and silt collected in its first run in 2011. According to figures posted on the MMDA website, they have completed 70.91 percent of their annual target for Metro Manila's waterways. "Stated otherwise, 39,436 out of a total of 55,608.00 linear meters have been declogged," the MMDA said.
Meanwhile, the ongoing Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement has yet to move into the third phase, which covers channel improvement along the Lower Marikina River. “Phase II of the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project is about 99 percent complete… Then there is Phase II-B which is about 87 percent complete,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ramon Carandang said last June.
But even with all these efforts flooding seems to have joined death and taxes in the ranks of the inevitable. 
Filipinos, therefore, need to make individual efforts to deal with deluges. They need to resort to "adaptive architecture" as proposed by urban planner Felino Palafox Jr.
"Yung mitigation measures medyo nababagalan tayo sa government initiatives. I-elevate na lang natin yung mga cities na yan. Cities on stilts," Palafox said on State of the Nation on August 8. According to Palafox, adaptive architecture proposals are "low-hanging fruit." For instance, Palafox said his Asian Development Bank-funded study on elevated walkways is cheaper than building skyways, and can be completed before 2016.
"Gumawa tayo ng elevated walkways, interconnected para maski nagbabaha, maglakad na lang yung tao. Parang ginawa ngayon sa Makati, we can do that in flooded areas, ginagawa yan sa Venice, maski nagbabaha ang Venice, they accept tourists kasi na sa elevated walkways sila," he said on SONA.
According to Palafox, San Juan and Navotas will have such walkways. "The mayor and city council approved they will have elevated walkways that are interconnected, they will have an elevated monorail, to interconnect the LRT EDSA and LRT Aurora...'yung Navotas ganoon din, they will do the elevated walkways," he said on SONA.
Palafox earlier said Navotas is a model community for creating ways of adaptive architecture.
“Yung 1977 flood map, flooded ‘yung [Navotas]. ‘Nung Ondoy, di sila masyadong na-apektuhan. Bumili daw sila ng bombastic pumps na larger than the specifications of the Department of Public Works and Highways," he explained previously.
Also, according to Palafox, General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority Neric Acosta and Gov. Jeorge Ejercito Estregan of Laguna are now pushing for the Parañaque Spillway. It was first proposed in 1975 and revived after Ondoy. "Mukhang they are pushing for the president to approve it and we are talking with foreign investors," he said on SONA.
“Hayaan mo nang mabaha”
For those who are still in the process of building their house, Palafox suggested a separate electrical system for upper and lower floors. "Let's say binabaha yung ground floor mo. Gawin mo na ang electrical system hiwalay yung ground floor, hiwalay sa taas," Palafox said on SONA.
For those without second floors, the solution can be as simple as positioning the electrical outlets above the flood level. "Electrical outlets, itaas mo na lang. That's adaptive architecture, adaptive electrical engineering," he said.
On the other hand, he said local governments should create a flood map with a flood zoning overlay to indicate areas where houses and buildings should not have livable spaces that are liable to flooding. "Siguro binabaha ang bahay mo nang nine meters high, so yung bedrooms, 10 meters above the ground. Below that hayaan mo nang mabaha," he said.
One example of adaptive architecture is Palafox Associates' Paseo del Rio in Cagayan de Oro, an elevated commercial complex with a hotel, shopping mall and convention center that are elevated 11.5 meters. 
"May ginagawa tayo ngayon sa Marikina Riverbanks, we're elevating it by 25 meters high ata, everything below it parking na lang po," Palafox said on SONA.
Palafox also suggested floating houses that can be anchored, such as those in New Orleans.
Palafox said his firm designed housing for the urban poor along esteros such as Estero de Paco and Estero de San Miguel. "Sa ground floor nila parking na lang ng tricycle," he said. After Ondoy, Palafox set aside one morning for an internal design competion in his firm, Palafox Associates, where 100 of their architects came up with ideas for adaptive architecture. Some possible designs feature manholes on every floor, and pulleys that can lift a grand piano.
Palafox suggested that architectural schools in the Philippines hold a design competition, where naval architects can work with civil engineers. After Typhoon Frank hit Iloilo, Palafox said he worked there with local architects, naval architects, and boat manufacturers. "Ang daming floating cities in the world," he said.
Rainwater harvesting
In an interview on News to Go, Palafox said public schools can build rainwater harvesting facilities under basketball courts or playgrounds, similar to those used in Fort Bonifacio, where a big cistern lies under Burgos Circle.
"Simulan sa kabundukan. Subdivisions sa taas bago bumaba yung tubig, i-hold muna nila in the meantime. You can recycle that for firefighting, irrigation," he said, adding that in Singapore, they use a series of rainwater harvesting facilities, beginning with green roofs.
However, landscape architect and urban planner Paulo Alcazaren told GMA News Online that rainwater harvesting facilities can help, but will not completely solve the problem.
"In super dense urbanized areas like huge portions of Metro Manila na walang open space, walang open roads, di kakayanin ng system... you just have so much water," he said, explaining that rainwater harvesting facilities can only absorb the water that falls on their particular area, but there will still be water flowing from other areas.
According to Alcazaren, there have been "missed opportunities," such as the barangay covered courts and multipurpose halls, which can be multilevel structures. "A lot of the mayors spend for all of these covered courts. Even in a regular covered court even if you just raise it...Just for some additional money puwede mong iangat yan, yan yung refugee center mo," he said.
Alcazaren said that part of the problem is corruption. "In the old days they would do that for the schoolhouses, yung Gabaldon school houses. Aakyat ka ng ilang steps ligtas ka sa baha. Now because nagtitipid and the money goes to corruption they don't want to spend for the raised floor when it's really simple," he said.
Alcazaren also emphasized the need for maintenance. "If you build infrastructure, it is an intervention na artificial... you have to have a budget for maintenance, otherwise it will fail again," he said.
He also said that in terms of policy, despite green ordinances in cities like Makati and Quezon City, people will find a way around them. "It's all good but it's not good enough, because nobody wants to acknowledge the immensity of the problem," he said.
Palafox said he had 23 flood-control proposals after Ondoy. Of the 23 proposals, only hazard mapping was done. "May proposals tayo noon how to address flooding. Kailangan arangkada, double time. Sabi ng foreign chambers, we cannot afford to postpone it anymore ... how can we say it's more fun in the Philippines with all the suffering?" he said. — DVM, GMA News