Environment-friendly homes

By Myra G. Ramos and Ashley M. Venerable

How environment-friendly is your house?

In Quezon Province, there exists a house so green it might bring your house to shame. It uses renewable energy and other cost-effective facilities. The house was constructed by the Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation Deputy Director, Jose Carmelo Gendrano.

The Gendrano’s residence

The house is known by their neighbors for its unique shape—unlike usual house designs, their house is circular in shape.

When asked about the house’s shape, Engr. Gendrano explained that the circular shape makes it more resistant to structural stress. He calls the house a ‘ferrocement house with reusable mold.’ Its roofs have a welded rebar framing and each room has its own skylight roof that can be opened for ventilation.

‘It is also relatively cheaper than other houses since it costs P150,000 as compared to other houses which usually cost double the price,’ Engr. Gendrano added.  There is also a decreased dependency on skilled labor since ferrocement application is simple and easy.

The 42 m­­2 house is located at Brgy. Lusacan, Tiaong, Quezon Province.

Green Facilities at Home: Rain or Shine

Rainwater Collector. Saving energy and money at the same time, the house is built with a rainwater collector tank. During rainy seasons, the family has no problem getting water. Instead of consuming P8 per day, the Gendranos only pay P4 daily for their water bill since they use collected rainwater for washing their clothes and watering their plants.

Solar Water Heater. The Gendranos can also have hot bath or drink hot coffee using their solar water heater. The heater was cleverly made to provide the family with hot water during the day.

The hose looped around the roof is covered with insulators made up of used plastic bottles.  As the hose gets hot, the water that passes through it also becomes hot.

Green sanitation: From wastes to fertilizers and gas

Urine as fertilizer. Aside from the cost-effective construction and green facilities, the Gendranos also have a unique type of sanitation system—a green sanitation system. Even their toilet bowl is designed in an economic and environment-friendly way. It has a urine diversion hole attached to a hose that carries the urine to a pit.  A pail is placed in the pit to catch the urine which can be used as fertilizer afterwards.

Human sewage as a means to cook. For about P6,000, Engr. Gendrano also constructed a biogas septic tank. The biogas septic tank is a means of digesting the human sewage anaerobically (without air) to produce methane gas which is burned to bring heat. Methane gas is produced when an organic material such as sewage decomposes in an airless environment.

The septic tank, which contains the collected human sewage, produces an effluent or an outflowing of gas. The effluent goes into a baffled reactor containing several divisions where wastes are digested. It then passes to a planted gravel filter before it is infiltrated into the ground via covered trench. The gas from the septic tank is then used in cooking.

Green facilities at home: Can you do it?

Since Engr. Gendrano has the skills and the education to build great green facilities, it’s easier for him to build such green systems compared to those who don’t have the skills. However, there are other green choices you can make at home.

Collecting water from your roof and using it for washing and watering the plants is simple. Natalia Geronimo, a 68 year-old grandmother from Quezon City collects rainwater to clean her garage, too. However, solar heaters are way more complicated and the guidance of a professional is necessary. The same goes for the other green sanitation systems.

Meanwhile, Gerardo Baron, a retired engineer from the Philippine BioDigesters had constructed a Home Biogas System (HBS). However, it requires a 2.5 meter by 2.5 meter pit away from roots or trees, making the design not compatible for those in urban areas where houses are constructed together. It is also designed for piggeries, where huge manures are dumped every day. The estimated amount of HBS construction and monitoring amounts to P22,800, but with huge amount of manures per day (80 L pig manures), P1,000 amount of biogas can be produced a month.

For a greener future, there are now environment-friendly technologies, even for households. But even without such technologies, simple acts like saving and reusing water are just as green.

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