Current flood protocols in the Philippines are mainly preventive rather than reactive. This locally-designed solution focused on the Tumana district serves as a safe and reliable means for citizens to brave the flash floods and unexpected storms that catch many off guard. The Victoria water lily can support weight due to a ribbed structural support at its underside, and this strategy inspired the raft’s design. The double-layered modular platform can be used in a number of ways at times of rest, from a park bench to a roof or even a divider implemented city-wide for ease of access. Once it comes in contact with water, the air pockets would immediately fill and float, supporting the weight of people onboard in the currents of the flood waters.
Define the problem being solved. The goal is to design an emergency safety raft integrated seamlessly into cities for the citizens to use in times of disasters. Tropical and dense countries like the Philippines experience rain half of the year and people fall victim to floods and typhoons. “Storms are the most frequent disasters occurring in the Philippines (55% of the total number of disasters), affecting 80% of people, 76% of total death, and 76% of estimated cost (damage) followed by flood and earthquakes.” (AHA Centre 2015) Places near the river are more exposed to severe flooding, such as Marikina City. Thousands of people are caught in the middle of flash floods, exposed to harsh bacteria in the water or floating debris. This design process focused on the Tumana Barangay (district) as a reference for designing a safe and reliable means for citizens to brave the storms when caught offguard.
What organisms/natural systems helped inform this design? The desire was to create a solution that is adaptable to the landscape and conditions of Tumana, so the team looked at phasmids for inspiration. The main concept of the project is its ability to transform from an object that can be found in the community into a raft that can be used during extreme floods. The inspiration came from the ability of phasmids to use camouflage. While resting, they stay in place and blend in with their environment. When it’s time to move, they transition without difficulty. For the raft, the team took inspiration from the Victoria water lily. The water lily can support weight due to a ribbed structural support at its underside. The air pockets formed by the support also helps keep it afloat. This informed the design of the raft as its ability to float while holding weight is one of the top considerations of the design.
What does this design do? This design is a double-layered modular platform that can be folded into a raft, fitting up to 3 individuals (2 adults and 1 child). Throughout the year, the platform can be used as a park bench, a roof, or even a divider that would be placed all around the city for easy access in times of need. Inspired by the Victoria water lily’s ribbed structured veins, the bottom of the raft will be patterned the same way and will immediately float once it comes into contact with water. It will be able to support the weight of the people on board as well as the currents of the flood waters. The platform’s layers are spongy inside and it is inspired by the spongy bones to help the raft float better without sacrificing durability. The platform can easily transform into a raft by following the creases and a rope mechanism will hold them in place. The rope mechanism is embedded in the platform and there is a latch that can be pulled to transform. It can be used in two ways: laid flat on the ground, the rope is pulled to transform it into a raft or use it in bench mode with people already sitting on it, and the rope will transform the bench into a raft once pulled. This ensures that the raft will be secured once it’s in the water and water will not seep through.
How does this solution address the problem or opportunity? Tumana is a highly urbanized town with poor urban development. The nearest living systems are an open field and the Marikina River. The design is highly informed of the constraints of a densely populated urbanized zone which is at the mercy of a flooding river. The project considers safety of the residents, particularly flood relief, and also serves them in their day-to-day activities. It’s sustainable in that it is highly reusable and efficient. It serves as protection for residents of Brgy. Tumana as well as a tool for leisure and livelihood.
Ethos Element: How compatible is this design with all surrounding living systems? Is it safe? How is it more sustainable than the alternatives? The current flood protocols of the Philippines are mainly preventive rather than reactive. City governments in flood prone areas such as Marikina City have relied on educating their citizens to evade the floods and their preparedness in evacuating their homes to the nearest shelter. However, according to a survey conducted by Juan Du and Stefan Greiving of School of Spatial Planning in Dortmund University, 96% of people preferred to stay in their homes in times of calamity such as floods. This design aims to work hand in hand with the current preventive systems placed by the local governments. The physical constraints of Tumana’s urban fabric: dense population, narrow vehicular roads, and sidewalks that do not allow for an effective redesign for flood prevention. As such, modular furniture is the most efficient way of helping the residents. It is space-saving and can be utilized all year round.
(Re)connect Element: Describe how this innovation helped the team connect with the natural world. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, the team was unable to physically explore the natural world. The unfortunate circumstance caused the team look to other ways. While technology is arguably the opposite of connecting to the natural world, it expanded the search to animals and plants from the farthest regions of the world, discovering species’ not otherwise known. The team began the search with the current knowledge of the Philippines’ animals and plants. By revisiting the things the team already knew, research led to the exploration of heat resistant bugs in the desert to insulted furry animals in the snow to buoyant plants in the swamps. Throughout the process, the team virtually traveled the world, to its furthest corners, to find nature’s untapped abilities. In a time where the team could not be further from nature, this experience helped reconnect the team to the outside world.
How were Nature’s Unifying Patterns or Life’s Principles applied to this design? Two of nature’s unifying patterns were applied to the design: nature is resilient to disturbances and nature is locally attuned and responsive. The design embodies the resiliency of nature by providing a raft that can save lives during extreme floods. It does this with a solution that adapts to the landscape and conditions in the community. The project exists as objects that are part of the daily lives of the locals during regular days. There are many days in the year when it is not flooding so the project needs to be useful for the community in other ways.