Friday, June 21, 2013

Feature Project: “BALAY TAWID” (FACTORA RESIDENCE), Sarrat, Ilocos Norte

This article illustrates the detailed process of an architect’s professional service in a residential project from its conceptualization to its completion.

The Factora Residence or Balay Tawid (Heritage House, Ilocano) is a 700-sqm, 2-storey, 11-bedroom house designed by Architect Raison John J. Bassig for the Factora family in 2012.  Located in a 1,100-sqm corner lot across the 16th-century Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, the design of the house was influenced by the architect’s desire to meet the family’s spatial requirements and the perpetuation of the traditional Filipino-Hispanic dwellings of the Ilocos Region.

Façade of the Factora Residence at night as seen from the northwest corner 
during landscaping works in December 2012
The Interior Courtyard and Fountain
Project History

The lot was the site of the family’s old house, a 2-storey chalet, built in the 1950s.  Movement inside the house was restricted due to poor accessibility.  Spaces were cramped to hold family reunions.  Inadequate storage caused bedrooms to be used as stockrooms.  Most parts of the house appeared dilapidated as shown by large cracks in the concrete, broken Capiz-windows, ceiling damages, exposed wirings, rusted pipes and clogged drainage.  These issues prompted the owners to hire a professional who could help solve the problems besetting the family’s home – an architect.
The old house as seen across the Sta. Monica Church in October 2011
The owners, 6 siblings, spent their childhood in this old house until most migrated to different parts of the world.  Due to their divergent locations, communications by and through the architect were done via email and Skype.  On February 9, 2011, the owners consulted the architect about their spatial, structural and utility problems.  The architect evaluated the house and the concerns of meeting the family’s wants and needs as well as blending the site with the environment.  The architect proposed his services to the owners in designing a more durable, more efficient and more beautiful home.

Design Concepts

The architect illustrated his ideas and presented a conceptual design on March 15, 2011 showing the inspiration, form, and space layout of the new house.  Some concepts were approved while some were discarded.  Discussions on pros and cons of each owner’s preferences and the architect’s opinions transpired for several weeks until initial plans were refined.
Conceptual design sketches presented in March 2011
A new scheme was presented by the architect featuring a central interior courtyard bounded by naturally-ventilated and handicapped-friendly halls leading to all areas of the house.  Bedrooms, each pair with common baths, were located east (cooler side) while service areas were located west (hotter side).  Only the east and south wings extended to the 2nd level preserving views to the Sta. Monica Church.
Layout showing zoning, access, vistas and orientation 
of the proposed scheme presented in May 2011

Perspectives showing the exterior appearance 
of the proposed scheme presented in May 2011

Walls and arches were brick-cladded akin to the church’s exterior.  Capiz-like aluminum windows, wood-finished concrete ventanillas, Tegula-shaped metal roofs, and synthetically-landscaped azoteas merged the traditional with the innovative design of the house – an allusion to the architecture of the Bahay na Bato.  The owners unanimously approved the scheme on May 20, 2011 with the concern of fitting the design within their budget.

Architectural Design Development

The scheme faced several revisions amid 5 months of brainstorming.  The first, on June 17, 2011, proposed a prayer room, air-con locations, grilles and paint color options.
Azotea with grilles and exterior color revised in June 2011
The second, on July 08, 2011, reduced the house by 50m2 to cut costs while retaining the optimal room sizes. 
Spacious living-dining areas revised in August 2011
The third, on August 26, 2011, had larger bedrooms without the common baths; spacious living area omitting the TV wall divider; prayer room reverted to a balcony; and entrances minimized for security.  The last, on September 13, 2011, included bigger kitchens; common baths in the southeast; and cabinets for custodial supplies.  The final design development plans, with 11 bedrooms (6 owners, 3 caretakers, and 2 guests), a living area with loft, dining, 2 kitchens, 6 baths, laundry, foyer, lanai, 3 porches and 2 roof decks, were approved on October 19, 2011.
Final design development plan in September 2011

Specifications and Engineering Design

Having considered various brands to lessen costs, the architect canvassed ideal materials to be specified.  After updating the plans and specifications, the architect directed his engineers to design their respective engineering systems.
Architect’s conceptual structural framing in October 2011

The civil engineer, aided by the architect’s structural concepts, designed a reinforced concrete grid system.  Foundation consisted of 35 isolated footings, 1.20m below grade, braced by tie beams.  Columns, of 250mm x 250mm sectional area, supported beams of varying depths bonded to two-way slabs 125mm thick.  Exterior and interior walls were 150mm and 100mm thick concrete hollow blocks, respectively.  Welded steel trusses and purlins were used for the roof framing.

The master plumber designed a double-filtered water supply system, distributed by polypropylene pipes, and connected to both the municipality and a private deep well.  Water heaters were provided in most bathrooms.  Sewerage system, through vented PVC pipes, led to a septic tank built 15m from the well.  Rainwater, from gutter-less roofs to a series of trenches, was allowed to permeate the soil.  Proper grading of the site’s sloping terrain averted water runoff to the house.

The electrical engineer designed a 230V, 60Hz, single-phase power supply distributed by copper wires, in thermoplastic high heat-resistant nylon-coated (THHN) insulators.  The main lines, 150mm2 in size, served a 227-amp load on separate power and lighting panels, each with 24 circuits.  The system had 10 motor outlets, 24 ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, 51 convenience outlets, 12 TV outlets, 6 phone outlets, and 296 lighting outlets controlled by 123 switches.

Construction Blueprints for the Building Permit

The architectural and engineering blueprints, with 27 sheets (14 Architectural, 4 Structural, 5 Plumbing and 4 Electrical) were drafted in November 2011.  Signed and sealed by the respective design professionals (Architect for Architectural, Civil Engineer for Structural, Master Plumber for Plumbing and Electrical Engineer for Electrical), the blueprints, with the specifications and estimates, were submitted to the owners on December 07, 2011 for the building permit application.
The architect submitting the blueprints and clarifying 
the technical details to the owners in December 2011
Bidding and Selecting the Contractor

The owners, having dealt with unreliable contractors before, sought the architect’s help to avoid the same difficulties again.  The architect insisted that contractor selection must be through a bidding process.  To protect the owners’ finances, the architect wisely stipulated in the bid conditions that the house must be built below the approved estimates.

The architect invited 20 prospective contractors wherein 7 expressed their interest to bid.  From February 13, 2012 to March 01, 2012, only 4 submitted their tenders, 2 withdrew and 1 disqualified for missing the deadline.  The architect verified that all data were submitted by the bidders: their licenses, proofs of satisfactory performance, bank statements, company profile, manpower, equipment owned, and other guarantees.  In examining the bids, only 2 passed the criteria.

On March 07, 2012, with the building permit approved, the 2 qualified bidders were separately interviewed by the architect and the owners.  Details of the construction contract were negotiated.  The architect instructed the bidders to show their projects for final assessment of their works.  The next day, the owners decided to award the construction of their new house to Asean Pearl Construction & Development Corp.  The contract was signed on March 12, 2012.

Construction and the Architect’s Extended Services
On March 15, 2012, the contractor began demolishing the old house.  Structural and pipe works for the new house were done by May 2012.  Walls were plastered in July 2012 while roofing, ceiling and exterior painting started in August 2012.  Midway in the construction, the owners insisted that antique-inspired motifs be infused to the minimalist interiors.  The architect expedited the modifications by designing Vigan-style furniture and lighting fixtures, wood and metal trims, and customized cabinets to the owners’ satisfaction.  The architect facilitated the fabrication, procurement and installation of these interior components including appliances, window covers, finish hardware, kitchen accessories and wall paintings.
Excavation works after the demolishing the 
old house and clearing the site in March 2012
The architect and the project engineer discussing 
the structural works in May 2012

The architect instructing the engineers and the foreman on the 
wall layout for the common baths in July 2012
Custom furniture designed by the architect being 
fabricated in Bantay, Ilocos Sur
By October 2012, all doors, windows, tiles, fixtures, carpentry and floor finishes were fitted by the contractor.  The owners additionally requested the architect to modify the outdoor areas by providing personalized designs of the fountain, grilles, fences, landscape and signage.  By mid-December 2012, lighting fixtures and appliances were installed while interior painting and site works were about to be completed.  An average of 30 workers per day was employed by the contractor.
The architect checking and fitting the wine glass holders at the kitchen nook
The architect demonstrating to the engineer and the carpenter the layout of the 
family’s signage to be constructed in the bedrooms
The architect and the engineer discussing the modified fence construction
Diverse works on the house façade
Installing the decorative chandeliers
The architect worked a total of 88 days of 8-hour on-site supervision.  All construction queries were responded to by the architect.  Unforeseen problems required the architect to play a vital role in resolving issues.  When changes were proposed by both the owners and the contractor, the architect had to render quick but objective decisions considering the viability and aesthetics of their suggestions.  All payment requests of the contractor were first evaluated by the architect before the owners paid their bills.  Likewise, the architect assessed all additive changes ordered by the owners and advised the contractor to make appropriate adjustments to the original contract price accordingly.

The architect inspecting the custom-designed lamp post grilles
The architect and the workers installing the customized ceiling fixture at the porch
The paintings of a local artist were mounted by the workers
Adjustments on courtyard trench drain grilles
Project Completion

On December 22, 2012, the new house was substantially completed.  Imperfections found by the architect were instantly repaired by the contractor.  For the owners’ interests, the architect required that defects caused by improper installation are guaranteed to be rectified by the contractor without costs to the owners for a period of 1 year.
Capiz windows from the old house reused as lighting fixtures for the foyer
Modern/vernacular-inspired main stairs at the loft-type living area
Hallways around the house provided with handrails for accessibility
Problems beyond the responsibilities of the architect and the contractor were matters concerning public utilities, such as, blackouts, water shortages, and lack of local drainage system.  The architect addressed these anticipated issues ahead of time by designing provisions for an emergency power supply, an elevated water tank, and drain pipe stub-outs around the lot.  The back-up generator and water tank are to be purchased and installed by the owners when their finances permit.

Overall, the new home of the Factora family was greeted with praise and admiration.  The 6 siblings and the caretakers, with their respective families, each had their own rooms complete with closets, desks, and storage spaces.  As a result of careful planning and interrelationship of spaces, movement around the house was more convenient. 

The interiors were less cluttered with ample built-in cabinets and better furniture layout.  Heat gain was minimized by proper orientation of rooms and appropriate use of insulating materials.  Visual connectivity of the outdoors from all areas inside the house was maintained.  The design of the house exemplified the fusion of the contemporary with the vernacular that essentially synthesized the soul of the structure with its surroundings.  With the architect’s help, the owners had fulfilled their dreams of a beautiful home that shall be their legacy to their family’s heritage, to their parents and to their community.

Raison John J. Bassig, 30, is a registered and licensed Architect (1st placer, 2006 Board Exams), Master Plumber (10th placer, 2007 Board Exams), and Environmental Planner (4th placer, 2008 Board Exams).  He is the principal architect and owner of Le Studio de Raison, based in Quezon City, Philippines.

For more detailed photos of the design and construction process of the Factora Residence, kindly visit the Architect’s Facebook Album “Factora Residence (from concept to reality)” or by copying the link provided below and paste it on your web browser’s address bar:



Great house contractors. The project is so nice and it looks, this is a big project. I love the interior designs shown. Congratulations and more project for the company.

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