Design Against the Elements Green Design Award Winner / Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov

Courtesy of Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov

Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov shared with us their winning design in the student Green Design Award category for the Design Against the Elements Competition. Set in Manila, Philippines, the design addresses the disastrous consequences of climate change around the world, and propose an architecture that would end the cycle of destruction and rebuilding that occupies so much time and so many resources in countries that are most effected by extreme storms. The design focuses on affordable and resilient communities that use modern technologies to thwart the effects of such storms.

Read on after the break to read more on this project.

The proposal is for an integration of technologies that produce a low cost, easy to assemble building. The design combines two main building materials: bamboo, a natural sustainable resource abundant in Asia, and concrete. The type of building to develop has the following properties:

Courtesy of Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov

- constructed with geometrical modules that can fit any program, any site, any landscape and any environment - distinctly modern functionally, yet has a vernacular look - stands firmly in the ground yet can never be flooded - welcomes wind but shuts out typhoons - easy and cheap to build yet can last decades - stores food, water and medicine when disaster strike - universal, that it can be built in any tropical community and still conform to the local needs by changing its size, shape and function

The backbone of the design is a hexagonal geometry, which allows for infinite tiling without wasted space. The hexagon is a strong geometry for a number of reasons. In terms of earthquake resistance, triangular frames and hence hexagonal units provide better performance than orthogonal solutions. The resultant unit can be repeated and mirrored along the sides of the hexagon in order to create the basic structure of a residential block, which is uniquely suited to the varying topography on the site. Because of this versatility, the buildings can be oriented freely on site. The radial layout of the units combined with the external façade mean that any orientation is optimal as sun shading is equal on each side of the building.

Courtesy of Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov

The interior planning of the apartments takes full advantage of the geometry. Because the Philippine standards for social and economic housing are very stringent (32-36 sqm for a family of 3 or 4 under the rules of DAtE), a hexagonal internal layout is again better than an orthogonal alternative. In such a small space obtuse angles make the space feel larger and more welcoming. The internal layout successfully manages to avoid acute angles and to optimize space usage by subdividing the hexagon from the centre.

Courtesy of Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov

The apartment blocks are specifically designed to address disaster resiliency. The ground level load bearing structure of the residential block is the hexagonal reinforced concrete structure, serving to provide strong support for the building, earthquake resistance, flood resistance and protection of the bamboo superstructure from the harmful effects of moisture. The metal roof is designed to accumulate incoming rainwater and channel it to a ground level bunker where it is stored. The reinforced concrete bunker is an integral part of the disaster resiliency of the building being entirely water and earthquake proof and accessible only from the first level, thus making it an ideal storage space for medical supplies, food and water. It is very often the case that after significant typhoons people are often left without electricity, water supply or food and the bunker address all those needs. The bunker is also designed to provide additional support to the structure in the case of an earthquake.

Courtesy of Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov

The external façade of the building is a low tech bamboo fence with operable segments which open and close to provide natural light or additional solar shading. The key purpose of the external fence is to separate the enclosing wall of the dwelling units into two elements, so that in the case of a strong typhoon only the external façade will be damaged. Since the fence is largely non-structural it can be easily and cheaply repaired. This solution prevents any major damage to the actual walls of the apartments, thus reducing the burden of typhoons on the residents.

school elevation side

The two structural solutions, bamboo and concrete, are chosen to provide a reduction of costs for the entire complex and for the future of the sustainable community. It also provides the strength and resilience of one, with the flexibility and openness of the other. While reinforced concrete requires heavy labor, formwork and very often professional oversight, the bamboo structure and infill walls can be built and maintained by residents of the community. This increases the level of autonomy both for the individual and the community. To facilitate this, the bamboo structure is designed in such a way as to permit modifications and repairs to be carried out by the residents: all structural members are doubled or triples so that they can be replaced when necessary. Additionally, the upper bamboo structure is kept separate from the infill elements to further facilitate maintenance and ensure structural integrity.

hall and market elevation

The urban design scale of sustainability and communal living are addressed in the master-planning of the community. The south ends are allocated for a communal run bamboo plantation where material for maintenance can be developed, while also providing jobs for the neighborhood. A single street and two roundabouts serve the community and create focus points where the residential units are orientated. The roundabouts contain the community facilities necessary for the development: a school, a community hall and a market, which are structurally and architecturally solved using the hexagonal approach.


Project Team: Nikola Enchev, Stefan Vankov Location: Taguig City, Manila, Philippines Team members: Georgi Petev, Peter Kasadzhikov, Mira Kolarova Consultant: arch. Kliment Radoev Site Area: ~ 30 300 sq Year: 2010 Competition: Design Against the Elements Award: Green Design Award, Category 2 (students) Total residential units: 243, 35 sqm per unit Facilities: Multi-purpose community Hall, Market, School/Day care centre, Waste treatment and plantation management facilities

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Cite: Irina Vinnitskaya. "Design Against the Elements Green Design Award Winner / Nikola Enchev and Stefan Vankov" 04 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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