Most of the Philippines has been in lockdown for over a month now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we grapple with the new normal engendered by strange social distancing and isolation guidelines, we are now forced to find ways of thriving and self-subsistence within the confines of the home.
Staying indoors can now pretty much spell the difference between life and death, and so there is perhaps no better time than right this moment to take a serious look at how our homes are or are not equipped to provide us with living space that support long term well-being. We take a look at four houses located in Metro Manila and its outskirts, and try to evaluate just how quarantine-ready they are.
What do lockdown-resilient abodes have in common? Let’s dive in.
1. COMFORTABLE & WEATHER-RESPONSIVE
Comfortable spaces are those that respect anthropometry, code requirements, and local climate. When staying indoors for extended periods of time, do our spaces allow us to move (or stay put) without causing strain on our bodies? Are our work desks designed so that we do not crouch over them too much that our backs hurt after only a few hours of working from home? Can we reach overhead kitchen cabinets with ease, without having to step on a foot stool? Is our bedroom at least 9 square meters in size, with sufficient ceiling clearance? Are our windows positioned in a way that encourages cross-ventilation? Does enough sunlight permeate our homes without making indoor heat unbearable?
Dwellings that are designed with sustainability as prime consideration may exhibit better quarantine resiliency than those that are not. These would be houses that meet at least the minimum code standards for living spaces, and are designed to adapt to the local climate.
One example is this 2-Storey residence located south of Manila, in Biñan, Laguna. Conservatively sized, spaces are laid out in an open plan. Each area is designed with windows positioned to enable cross-ventilation. Indoor temperature is made comfortable as deep roof eaves protect windows and doors from direct sunlight and rain. A portion of the ground floor opens all the way to the second floor, a feature that helps stimulate good air circulation. Tall windows facing the east let in a copious amount of sunlight, making access to immune-boosting vitamin D easy.
2. OUTDOOR SPACE
Access to the outdoors is especially important when mobility is limited within the four walls of the home. When in quarantine and going out on the streets is not an option, a house with sufficient provision for green open spaces is able to provide a refreshing haven to its dwellers. These spaces can either be the setbacks around the property, or a bare expanse within the lot intentionally left open to the sky. Aside from serving as an area for exercise or physical activity, these open spaces can be used to grow oxygen-producing plants that positively impact health and well-being. Growing edible greens is made possible by having sufficient open space around the home. These areas can also serve as space for putting up a rainwater collection system and a water filtration system — especially useful installations when access to water is limited. Raw open spaces allow portions of the earth to be experienced by humans. This grounding encounter has been found to help improve sleep, reduce inflammation, manage pain, and boost immunity.
This residence in Quezon City can be considered quarantine-ready as it is planned with sufficient open expanse. The house is built 4.5 meters away from the front property line, and 2 meters away from the right, left, and rear property lines. These gaps, referred to as set-backs, serve the functions of an open space. The balconies at the second floor, meanwhile, are semi-open areas which serve as “pocket gardens”, and bring in an abundance of sunlight and easy access to greens (whether decorative or edible!).
3. SPACE FOR ISOLATION
We now acknowledge that pandemics can happen at any given time, without warning. And when it does, we resort to isolation as a proven effective means of helping mitigate the spread of pathogens.
When residences have a provision for space that allows a family member to isolate from the rest of the family, pandemic resiliency is strengthened. This space can be the Guest Room or any extra room that is located away from the home’s main living spaces and bedrooms, with access to its own toilet facility.
This residence in Las Piñas exhibits quarantine-readiness, owing to the Home Theatre being located at the lower ground level. The room has direct access to a dedicated toilet and a kitchenette/snack bar, which makes it a self-sustaining space. Additionally, because it has its own entrance separate from the main house’s entry way, it is in the perfect location to keep a potentially infected person physically and spatially separated from the rest of the family.
4. SPACE THAT FOSTERS COMMUNICATION
When shut off from the rest of the physical world, we turn to people we live with for companionship and support. Psychological health is put at risk when people are faced with great uncertainty, as in the case during a pandemic. To battle this, quality communication between family members and co-dwellers is key. Good spatial arrangement can encourage such communication, where everyone is nudged or “forced” to interact with each other in common spaces strategically laid out throughout the home. This is an important consideration especially in larger homes where there’s a good chance that co-dwellers do not see each other because of the size of the house.
In this 528-sqm sprawling home, the staircase area, which serves as point of access to all bedrooms at both the ground and second levels, is situated close to the Dining Area where the family usually gathers together. If anyone intends to go out the main door, it would be impossible to do so without passing by family members in the Living and Dining Areas. It is also impossible to reach the Kitchen without passing by the Dining Area. As such, family members are nudged to pass by each other often, and possibly interact among themselves — an ideal living scenario for anyone trying to power-through a lockdown crisis.
All of the houses described above exemplify quarantine-readiness. It can be said that when all four markers discussed are met, residences are able to efficiently support a family’s physical and psychological well-being, moreso in the event of a mandatory lockdown. It is imperative that homeowners are made aware of these benefits, especially when building or purchasing a house. Sound professional design advise is crucial in ensuring that all quarantine-readiness markers are met.
Contact your architect today.