Making change happen
(The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2017 - 12:00am

Architecture is not just about building unique and iconic forms. It is using timber, bricks, mortar and steel to better society and to improve life.

This was what Rebecca Plaza, a third year architecture student of the National University, realized when she designed Project Noah, which concept won the top prize at the Asia’s Young Designer Award (AYDA) hosted by Nippon Paint with 1,252 entries.

In March 2017, Rebecca will be flying to Yogyakarta in Indonesia to represent the Philippines where she will be competing with representatives from 14 other Asian countries for the title “Asia’s Young Designer.”

According to her, the challenge AYDA set out way back in June was to create a design that has something unique to offer to the community. They had until October to come up with a concept. With this in mind, Rebecca explained that she designed a building, Project Noah, to respond to the country’s most pressing problems, namely food insecurity, a declining agricultural sector, and widespread drug abuse.

Noah is basically a prototype for drug rehabilitation and educational centers with the aim of healing and informing, Rebecca said.

Right now, she notes, there are only 60 drug rehab centers in the country, but over 700,000 self-professed users.

Rebecca chose her hometown Bukidnon as site for the prototype. Companies like Del Monte, Dole, Lapanday and Bukidnon Sugar Co. would provide financial backing for the construction of the facility that will be jointly operated by the health, tourism, agriculture and justice departments as well as TESDA.

Only a stone’s throw away from the Bukidnon jail and the Malaybalay General Hospital, Noah will cater to in-patients, those seeking help due to substance abuse, outpatients, and inmates serving two-year parole. There, they will learn how to farm and the investor-corporations would have the priority to choose who to employ after.

The facility’s design is very environment-friendly. Solar panels provide 62 percent of Noah’s energy requirement. The exterior of the building uses engineered bamboo which is considered the material of the future. Rebecca explains that the material has the tensile strength of steel and the compressive strength of concrete. There is also a system for collecting rain water which is stored in an underground retention tank. The water collected is used for irrigation and for flushing toilets.

The design also maximizes the use of natural lighting and ventilation, thereby capitalizing on the cool climate of Bukidnon.

Rebecca has studied at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom and has done design and research programs at the Architectural Association in London and the University of Hongkong. She is now enrolled at NU. Rebecca is also a working student, and heads her own design consultancy firm that employs 48 people.

She tells this writer that the idea is for the facility to be built nationwide through the public-private partnership (PPP) program. According to Rebecca, banana firm Tadeco actually employs people from the Davao Penal Colony to farm. When the inmates show good performance, they are hired as full-time staff after their time in jail.

The idea has likewise been presented to the Office of the President which has reportedly shown interest in the project.

The following are some of the perspectives of the proposed facility:

Aerial Perspective

Exterior Perspective

For comments, e-mail at philstarhiddenagenda@yahoo.com.

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