Written by violette

How to build long lasting sustainable houses respecting the environment when nature is making things difficult for you ?
That’s an issue James Jao, a pioneer of eco-architecture based in the Philippines, tackles with success. He already built twenty Eco-houses designed to resist the local climate and earthquakes.

James discovered sustainable development while studying City Design and Social Sciences in London. He saw his first Eco-house in Belgium back in 2008, and, fond of the concept, decided to bring it back to his native country where he built his first sustainable model during the Manila Construction show. Now he lives in Manilla where we met him to know more about Eco-house construction :

James Jao, eco-architect

Can you explain us what is an Eco-house?

James : An Eco-house is made out of sustainable materials. Also, the construction methodology has a lower carbon footprint because it’s pre-engineered.

My Eco-house is made out of PVC roof, polystyrene-lined concrete walls that stabilize indoor temperature, non-toxic paint, led light, and water efficient materials, among other things.

I am using thermal walls, a technology that prevent the heat, but also double glazing low emissivity glass so that the heat is reflected out : you almost don’t need air-conditioning.  Indeed, air-conditioning produces a lot of carbon that heats up the atmosphere and is also expensive electricity-wise.

How did your project evolve over the years?

James: The first house was called LuzViMinda which means Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, the three main islands groups of the Philippines.

The vision was to build Eco-houses throughout the Philippines and I can say today that I have done it!

I have built not only houses but also school campuses and commercial buildings. I have also developed a bigger vision with a carbon zero house that is also climate and disaster resilient, and can resist a storm of 320 kph winds and earthquake of 8.0 magnitude on the Richter scale.

Sustainable building is also about using local and organic materials; that is why in the Eco House, 90% of the furnitures are locally produced, some are bamboos, wood and woven fabric.

90% of the furnitures are locally produced.

The first Lifestyle Eco House south of Manila located in Ayala Alabang Village.

How do you avoid producing waste with your constructions ?

James: I am avoiding waste because the buildings are pre-engineered, everything is prepared off site and you just put everything together. Almost nothing is wasted.

There are several approaches to a sustainable building but what I am telling you is just one, and I respect what some other architects do by using mud or clay.

What is your message for other people about sustainability?

James:  The only path of the future is sustainable development and a sustainable building construction. We must find the technology that suits each location and that is built in a manner that reduces waste and delivers a space to people that is more comfortable where they can enjoy a home with natural light, natural ventilation and passive cooling.

We have to share the paradigm of sustainable living through education.

Embrace and practice the paradigm of eco living. You have to walk the talk if you want to make a real change.

Not only the citizens but the government should also take action and should enter the green economy which is far behind in Southeast Asia or the Philippines.

What is your dream?

James: You have a simple house. You don’t need a car; you can just walk or bike. In your neighborhood you can find a farm where you can harvest vegetables…

My dream would be an eco-town where you could live minimally.

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Violette Siméon