News & Insights

Architecture, Planning, & Urban Design: Future-proofing Buildings with Adaptive Designs

As the world evolves, so do people's behavior, priorities, and the built environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed our interest in open spaces and deepened our appreciation of comfort, light, and ventilation. In addition, architecture and interiors now accommodate multiple uses more than ever because of the work from home setup quarantines have forced us in.

Even pre-pandemic, climate change had already disrupted weather patterns and sped up sea level rise. This warrants changes in our priorities as designers and how we design our built environment. Some existing structures may not be equipped against its effects, such as flooding and strong winds, but we can implement well studied design strategies to give these structures better chances to survive them. As for new structures, as architects, engineers, and planners, we also have the responsibility to prepare our buildings and our environment through design. After all, we are not only protecting the building itself but also the people we design them for.

The best architecture by nature is responsive and adaptive. Adaptive architecture, more specifically, is architecture that is explicitly studied and designed to adapt to its environment, its inhabitants, and to phenomena; referring to design that is dynamic or flexible whether in terms of use and form and whether analog or digital.


We have witnessed evolution, both natural and man made, give birth to more creative building types. As we cross the Fourth to the Fifth Industrial Revolution, humans are once again front and center where we highlight consciousness, personalization, innovation, purpose and inclusivity.

Among the adaptive designs that we at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture have explored include floating communities, more creative housing structures like the Smokey Mountain Housing Project in Tondo, and school-cum-evacuation centers such as the Tzu Chi Tropical School in Palo, Leyte.



​​The design for these floating communities are inspired by Kampong Ayer, a cluster of around 40 small villages in Brunei; the Badjao Villages in Sulu, and the bahay kubo.

Architectural Design for Floating Houses

Kampong Ayer is the largest settlement on stilts in the world. Houses belonging to these villages are interconnected via walkways that also traverse groups of houses similar to blocks in ground villages for organization.

Similar to Kampong Ayer, the Badjao Houses are also supported by stilts on water and interconnected by walkways. Contrary, however, to Kampong Ayer, Badjao houses stand separate from each other giving them easier access to boats.


These modern and cost-effective house designs resemble the architecture of the Filipino bahay kubo most especially where the kubos are built on stilts preventing flood waters from entering the home.

The houses are also further elevated by one to three meters higher than the average sea level to prepare households against high tide. The lower levels, or the silong, also create an urban space for its owners which they can use for social gatherings or mere recreation and leisure. 

Some designs also use floating mechanisms and counterweight anchors to adapt to potential flooding. A small docking area for boats is also incorporated in the design which will help the residents access their homes even with higher water levels.

The Badjaos of Sulu also served as an inspiration for a conceptual floating two-storey residence. The whole house is raised one to three meters above sea level, with elevated walkways and roads. The house also has its own private dock.


Schools become emergency evacuation centers in times of disasters. The Tzu Chi Tropical School explores a school’s versatility and pushes a structure’s resiliency with the S3H (Sustainable + Strong + School + Home) concept, developing a design that specifically caters to and protects evacuees during calamities such as strong typhoons and flooding.

Facilities of Tzu Chi Tropical School in Palo, Leyte

Durability and sustainability through the use of indigenous materials and green design features prepares it against disasters. Bamboo as the main construction material in a simple construction system makes the classrooms easy to replicate by members of the communities themselves. Bamboo’s availability also allows a faster and cheaper method of construction. 

A-frame trusses support the roof while serving as columns. This also creates a space for lounging outside the school walls. Appropriately sized storm shutter louvers allow passive wind direction and less wind drag as it enables wind to exit the building instead of hitting its walls. The design also makes it more resilient against high speed wind disturbances.

Green and Sustainable Materials

  • Concrete: footing, column, beam, slab, and stairs.
  • Bamboo Pole: truss, post, rafter, purlin, framing handrail, flooring, furniture and wall.
  • Steel/Galvanized Steel: reinforcement connection support, bolts, threads, nuts, base plate, and roofing.
  • Glass: jalousie windows.
  • Abaca Rope/Coco Coir: hanging plants and bamboo connections.

Green and Sustainable Strategies

  • Double envelopes
  • StyroMesh block for wall
  • Day lighting
  • Passive cooling
  • Rainwater and storm water collection
  • Solar harvesting (solar panels)
  • Wind harvesting (wind turbines)
  • Green wall using PET bottles
  • Renewable and recyclable materials
  • Modular system
  • Biological wastewater treatment (low-flush toilet upgrade ready)
  • Stilts and raised floors
  • Vegetable garden

Green Material Finish List

  • Bamboo poles (kawayang tinik)
  • Bamboo flooring
  • Bamboo door
  • Bamboo railing
  • Bamboo armchair (classroom chair)
  • Galvanized iron sheet roofing
  • Low VOC paint
  • Jalousie windows
  • Sawali or woven wall
  • Concrete
  • Steel


The Smokey Mountain Housing project is like a condominium on stilts, providing more appropriate shelter for the communities of Smokey Mountain in Tondo. Raising the building on stilts allows the ground level to be permeable for residents which integrates it with the public space surrounding the building. This strategy also allows potential flooding to pass through the building, preventing waters from reaching the residential floors.

Architectural Design for Resilient Housing in Smokey Mountain

Green walls and green roofing are also integrated into the design to provide alternative food sources for the community and help minimize carbon footprint.


We believe that successful adaptive architecture is interdisciplinary. Contrary to a simpler multi-disciplinary practice where an individual does not cross the boundaries of his or her role, an interdisciplinary team has their members and concerned individuals put their brains together to form an integrated design. The process is more complex, as warranted by more intricate project backgrounds, but the outcome is forthcoming which ensures that goals are achieved and needs are satisfied.