Manila, Philippines: Nipa Hut

The most common type of vernacular architecture in the Philippines, would be a hut called a Nipa Hut. Constructed from bamboo mainly, they are easily reconstructed if destroyed by a tsunami or storm. These buildings were raised off of the ground usually to avoid animals that would come into the house. 

The Smartest Envelope

Beginning in the 20th century building design has been dominated by the idea that the building creates its own climate, independent from the environment. This disconnect from the outside environment takes energy to do so. In the past few decades there has been a movement to become more connected to the environment, using it to our advantage instead of fighting it.  A building should act like a tree, and a city like a forest.


Michelle Addington pointed out the thought behind 20th century buildings. She quotes that buildings were should be thought of as “hermetic” seals that separated indoor climate from outdoors (Addington, 13). This type of thinking, where people are above nature is what is leading climate change. The idea that we can exist in an environment separate completely man made is ludicrous. We live within the bubble that is earth’s atmosphere, and if we are not careful we will burst it.


Dahl describes how we can use the climate in relation to our own bodies. Dahl refers to a building as a “third skin,” after our clothing (Dahl, 58). He describes how the film of the building can be altered to fit the necessities of comfort for the human body.  


One such project is the National Heart Center of Singapore by Ong & Ong:


The building has a flexible, adaptable outer wall that is geared toward being able to change for a patient’s needs. This is the type of design that will shape our buildings of the future. A building will then be a way to funnel the environment in a way that serves the human body best. Architecture must become personal and take root in what the human really needs to survive, then from there, to flourish. 

Comfort Conundrum

Our bodies are quite fragile machines. With respect to the many drastically different climate conditions around the earth our body would have a hard time surviving in most of them, let alone being comfortable in them; yet humans inhabit almost every part of the globe. It is from our ingenuity in design that allows us to do so. But this ingenuity has brought us into a new lifestyle that is quite excessively wasteful.


Through both passive and non-passive design, we can create a comfortable living environment in almost any extreme climate condition. Lechner describes how typical comfort levels are measured with a psychrometric chart. By weighing temperature, relative humidity, dew point and humidity ratio, the environment in which our bodies can maintain an optimum heat and moisture exchange with little effort, or comfort zone, is calculated. We can then add design techniques to a building that allow for that comfort zone to be maintained in changing and extreme climates.


The invention of forced air conditioning completely changed the way we live and design our spaces. The AC unit in my room is quite an effective machine. When working properly, it does exactly what I ask it to do. All I have to do is turn it on and my hot, uncomfortable room becomes nice and cool. For me it is the quickest solution with the least amount of effort on my part. Even to a designer it is an effective choice. A designer does not have to worry about how hot an upstairs room in a Virginia house, in the summertime, they merely have to put in an AC unit and the problem is fixed.


But in my case, using the AC unit would be using a dollar when a dime would do. I could simply open both of my windows and get cool air from under the tree outside my room circulating within the space. Though it may take slightly longer, it will still reach a comfortable level without using the large amount of electric energy necessary for the machine.


Kiel Moe explains how most of our techniques when it comes to technologies are overkill. He writes we have a “Machine Mentality,” and that we seek to solve our problems with machines (Moe, 38). Our society has moved into a direction where we look for complicated solutions (that most times have negative side-effects) instead of a simple intervention to a problem. 

Micro Climates of Campbell Hall


These diagrams depict microclimates around Campbell Hall.

The east entrance is by far the coolest of the three areas. It is most likely due to the amount of shade it gets from being sunken in the ground, and on the north side of the north addition. It also has a large thermal mass that traps the cold temperature and slowly releases it.

The South Patio was the hottest of the Three area. This was due to the minimal shade from being on the south side on the north addition. It also has surfaces that capture the heat from the sun like brick. 

The third floor garden was the area with the most comfortable temperature, It was not too hot or cold. It is on the south side of the building which allows for many hours of sunlight. Unlike the patio, the garden has trees which allow in light, but not too much to heat the space to an uncomfortable level. It also has gravel instead of concrete as the ground, so the thermal massing that captures cold that cools down the east entrance does not happen here. In the winter months when the trees lose their leaves, this will allow for more sunlight to reach this space making it warmer when needed. 

These three spaces all differ from each other but are spaces that during different times of year, or in different weather can be most suitable for inhabiting. during cooler months the south patio may be the most warm place to sit, whereas in the summer the east entrance may be the coolest place to escape the heat. 


Manila, Philippines Comfort Zone

1. On this chart if the temperature is 80 degrees and the humidity is 40%, the dew point will be roughly 53 degrees.

2. If it is 90 degrees outside with a 60% humidity outside and a space inside was air conditioned to 68 degrees and 50% humidity, the humidity ratio would change .011.

3. If the dry bulb temperature is 78 degrees and the wt bulb temperature is 50 degrees, the relative humidity would be roughly 5%

4. Manila is a hot, humid climate which stays in a fairly consistent range during the year.

5. Because Manila on an island in the southern Pacific, this could account for the high humidity and heat during the year. 

6. January and February are the only two months in which the temperature falls within the comfort zone at 1%-2%.

7. The only passive design strategy that would work to bring the temperatures down to the comfort zone would be natural ventilation cooling, according to this chart. All other passive design techniques do not get into the right range, and those that do are not passive (e.i. dehumidification, or air conditioning) 

8. In Manila it is nearly impossible to achieve a high percentage of comfort year round with only passive design. The biggest challenge is that the temperature and humidity are constantly so high.