Pioneering Disaster Resilient Building Technology in the Philippines

A disaster-resilient house built with Archipelago 7000 materials.

Photo courtesy of Paul Staples.

To minimize the devastating effects of natural disasters that often hit the Philippines, disaster-resistant structural insulation panels were invented, said Paul Staples, BYU-Hawaii alumnus and chief marketing officer of Archipelago 7000. Because it is a newer form of construction, Staples said people have limited knowledge of the strength of this building material. Archipelago 7000 is a Philippines-based company that manufactures magnesium oxide insulated structural panels to be used in disaster-resistant residential structures.

Disaster Resilient Technology

According to Staples, when the concept was first developed, it took about 10 years for the structural insulation panel, or SIP, material to harden, with the end result being magnesium oxide. He said their structure is like a sandwich consisting of cement on top and bottom and foam in the middle. Staples explained that the concept of this material is like a cup made of styrofoam – when hot water is poured into it, it doesn’t burn your hand when you hold it or touch it.

Chris Manongdo, a senior finance student from the Philippines, said, “I’ve seen it through fire tests. I went to Bro [Paul] The Staples Garage. We set fire to the wall, which was made of SIPs material, and there was not a single trace.” He explained that when Staples did the same thing to hardwood, it caught fire. After witnessing this, Manongdo said he is confident to one day build his personal house with SIP material. “Can you imagine how much more peaceful it would be if you heard the news that there was going to be an earthquake or a disaster, and you didn’t have to worry about it?” he noted.

Through its insulation system, a house that is built from this is a material that is supposed to be disaster-resistant in situations that include mold, earthquakes, typhoons, termites and fires, Staples said. He said it was capable of withstanding 200 mph winds. Compared to traditional houses, which are usually built with wood material, he said, this material allows houses to be built faster, more efficiently and cheaper.

According to Archipelago’s website, the 7000 housing units are pre-cut in the factory for the windows and doors, making it very easy to assemble them on site. Staples explained that the material is like working with Lego blocks, it involves less construction workers and materials during the process.

Maui Fire Damage Relief

Staples said when the recent fires broke out on Maui, he knew it was devastating for many people because they would have to rebuild everything on their now rubble-covered lands. He said this concern ignited his desire to introduce the people of Maui to this material. He asked himself, “If they’re going to rebuild, why not build something that won’t burn?”

Manongdo said he never really had an interest in learning about building materials, but that changed and his interest gradually grew as he paid more attention to what he witnessed in the Philippines. He said: “If you live in the Philippines, we have tornadoes, earthquakes and floods every year [which can cause waters to rise] up to the chest. Some uncertified people tried to wire [housing] myself which [have] causes and fires.’

On the financial situation in the Philippines, Manongdo explained that many people cannot afford a good home because a good house requires high maintenance costs. He said the average person in the Philippines does not invest in real estate or think of buying their own home because it is not within their budget. However, through SIPs buildings, he said he and his people have a brighter hope for a more affordable house. “If I build a house, I want to use such a material. [When you] you live in a place where everything else is always a disaster, then you want something that will last,” Manongo said. He said that’s what Archipelago 7000 sells to people – a home that provides security and protection, including financial.

James Astle, a BYUH graduate who majored in business management and graphic design, said he was able to witness the housing projects being done in the Philippines. He said he saw people’s gratitude as they finally owned a house with a structure they could trust would last, eliminating their usual anxiety. Astle explained: “Nothing is completely indestructible except SIP [helps] preventing the usual major destruction.” With the capabilities of the SIP buildings, he said the family he met felt confident they could continue without fear when future typhoons came.

For Manongdo, the tragedy that befell Maui was similar to what he often experienced back home. He suggested that people consider using this material. Expressing his condolences for the Maui tragedy, he said, “We grieve with those who have lost everything. [You] we can’t replace or undo what happened, but what we can do is build something that will protect you not only financially, but emotionally as well.

He continued, “Home is sacred, especially in Hawaii, which means that everyone must protect it with everything they can do. Using SIPs as housing options is one [method] for disaster prevention that we can do.” Manongdo said he hopes people will open their minds wide to consider having their house built with this material to recover faster from their devastating condition.

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