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Building resiliency through active private sector partnership

At the age of 63, most people will probably be enjoying their retirement or at least planning for it. This is not the case for Architect Jose “Joe” Miranda who, at that age, still goes out on the field, lending a helping hand wherever it is needed.

As the chairperson of the Emergency Architects of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP-EA), Joe has been involved in designing alternative temporary shelters (ATS) for resilient building and post-disaster responses.

When asked why he joined such an advocacy, he says, “I’d like to do something for the rest of my productive practice. I think it is something that should be done. This is an advocacy that architects like us should be focusing on, especially in the Philippines where we experience a great number of disasters."

The devastation and the impact on lives by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 led to the formation of the UAP-EA. The committee then began designing ATS for disaster response and mitigation. In one of the committee’s forums in 2016, they were approached by a member organization of the Move Up Project, and that was when the collaboration between the groups started.

“We partnered with Move Up Project because it is longer-termed. Our agreement with the project is that whenever we formulate a design, we would like to test it in part or in whole, to be able to check whether the components, system, and the science that we are using are at least correct and sustainable,” says Joe about the extent of their involvement in the project.

Alternative Temporary Shelter designs, as it turns out, are not one size fits all. Specific designs are tailored to certain disasters and certain areas. According to Joe, they have shelter designs for a typhoon scenario and another for a post-earthquake scenario that can withstand up to intensity-three aftershocks. “We always say when we took off designs for shelter, especially for post-disaster emergencies or temporary shelters, that these solutions are progressive. The type and intensity of disasters are different. Standards then change with the type of disaster. Nature cannot be tamed. It will always introduce new challenges,” explains Joe.

He adds, “That is why, in the end, we came up with not only a single solution; we have a menu of options. We have designers and design criteria. We think the alternative temporary shelters need to be robust enough that you can use it today, fold it, store it, and use it again should the need arise. This is so that it is efficient and not just for single use.”

Joe and his committee, however, go beyond merely designing, testing, and building ATS. They also go to other parts of the country to introduce the ATS designs they made and provide capacity-building seminars on resiliency to the architects of the areas. “In Surigao del Sur and Compostela Valley, we introduced the alternative shelter and how they should use it. We encouraged them to make it fit—not necessarily to adopt our designs, but to try and see how it will translate to the conditions of the locality,” shares Joe.

And the community work doesn’t stop there for the committee, as they have bigger plans when it comes to improving and even redefining the alternative temporary shelters that they designed.

“I think the ATS program is gaining ground, but we want to attain something better because the definition of post-disaster sheltering is extensive. There’s the alternative shelter for emergencies, the transitional shelter, and the permanent shelter. Somewhere in between, there’s a kind of shelter that makes it possible for families to develop it as something that’s permanent, making it smart,” says Joe.

These smart shelters all add up to the resiliency of a community, to which Joe says: “A resilient community is strong. When there’s coordination and teamwork among stakeholders, we can have a resilient city. We know the vulnerabilities of Manila, but we can turn it around into something wherein resiliency is a factor. That is what you call a Smart City.”