Tremors — Architecture Competition by

UNI announces ‘Tremors’ — Architecture Competition to Disaster resilient housing — Design competition in Quezon City, Philippines —

Fig: 1 — All earthquakes marked since 1960 (Credits- Global Volcanism Program)

Earthquakes disasters

The first deadliest earthquake ever recorded was 4000 years ago, in 1556 AD China. It shook the Shaanxi province killing an estimated 830,000 people, with records of city disruptions all around the world. Back then due to less advancement, it was believed that earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in subterranean caves or due to battles between gods.

With the advent of seismology — the study of earthquakes — we now know that they are a part of our geographical setting, most quakes are caused by tectonic processes — forces within the solid Earth that drive changes in the structure of Earth’s crust.

Earthquakes can affect hundreds of thousands of square kilometers and cause surface distributions depending on their scale. The next fatal earthquake recorded after 1556 AD was in 2004 in the Indian Ocean, 9.1 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes manifest themselves by shaking and displacing or disrupting the ground, which triggers landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic activities.

Fig: 2–7.8 Magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 (Credits-Chris McGrath)

Dealing with devastation

Earthquakes pose several types of threats that act in the form of chain reactions. Earthquakes are caused due to friction between plates, if one of these plates belonging to a certain geographic location moves an inch it results in many small and moderate earth tremors. Whereas in some parts, the strain of these movements can build up for hundreds of years, leading up to hazardous earthquakes when it releases.

Most earthquakes occur far beneath Earth’s surface, which is beyond the influence of surface conditions and temperature. Though long-term conditions induced to the surface can cause some changes, for instance, injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal or secondary recovery of oil, can cause minor earthquakes. But overall, once an earthquake starts it is not humanly possible to stop it. However, we can significantly mitigate their effects by taking measures and characterizing the hazard. Once an earthquake takes place, there is very little time for action and warning. Rapid emergency and preparation are therefore crucial elements of a seismic disaster.

Fig: 3 — Built structures poses the biggest threat to a region during earthquakes (Credits-Getty)

Earthquake resistance in the built infrastructure

An average of 3.5 million people’s livelihoods are affected every year due to these earthquakes, and moderate and minor earthquakes in recent years have increased due to various factors.

The most important elements during an earthquake are geology and engineering/design. The greatest risk in an earthquake is the element of shaking it causes to the built-environment

Structures that fail to consider earthquake resilience, often collapse and injure people even in small-scale earthquakes. It causes severe damage to homes, urban centers, and other infrastructures. This affects the livelihoods of thousands of people, especially in developing countries.

The geophysical conditions are uncontrollable, but by ideating innovative and flexible solutions to these constant tremors can we improve the conditions?

As architects and engineers, how can we design more resilient and sustainable structures that both enable rapid recovery following a disaster and also reduce the risk of damage?

Fig: 4- Luzon earthquake 2019-Manila (Credits-CNN World)

Calamities in Philippines

The Philippines lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where its area of 40 thousand kilometers is prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and also flooding, resulting in damages to livelihoods every year. The impacts of such natural disasters are huge on the economy. Hazards affect the public infrastructure, roads, housing, agriculture schools, and other built spaces. Due to three major disasters in 2020; typhoon Ulysses and Taal volcano eruption and the pandemic, life, and mobility in the Philippines were affected, causing harm to the entire economy.

Over time the social and economic cost of natural disasters in the country is increasing due to population growth, change in land-use patterns, migration, unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation. In addition, with climate change posing more threats, more disasters are likely to happen in the years to come. The country requires more stringent disaster management systems and enhanced engineering technologies to minimize the risk and losses due to frequent earthquakes. How can we contribute to minimize the losses in terms of designing and preparedness in emergencies?

Fig: 5– Jintai Village Reconstruction after a major earthquake (Credits- Rural Urban Framework)

Brief of the competition

Earthquakes have a significant effect on society causing the loss of infrastructure and life. However, there is still a lack of general public understanding of the way that earthquakes affect structures and the preventative measures that can be taken to design safer structures. Many cities and rural regions in the Philippines are under pressure of earthquakes, leading to landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The issues of infrastructure and housing are also prevalent in the cities due to overpopulation and create an unpredictable future for a living.

In such dire situations can we provide a solution that is quick during disasters?

Brief: Propose earthquake-resilient temporary shelter units. The design urges to innovate and implement strategies for earthquake management in these shelters.

The aim is to design keeping in mind the impact, emergency, and recovery. The design should be flexible for easy assembly/disassembly.

Design objectives

  • User: Disaster housing units are an engineering solution primarily, but how well do you understand the user and outline primary needs?
  • Structure: How innovative/efficient/effective is the structure and infill materials used in the shelter?
  • Resilient: Design a durable solution that has the capacity of a system to experience shocks while retaining function, structure.
  • Imaginative: Use creative and rational thinking to integrate living and emergency
  • Adaptability: How will the housing units adapt with stages and time after its installation and use? How can it be upgraded in further months or even a year?
  • Modular: The units must be portable through the rest of the city/region if required.


Fig: 6— Site image
  • Location: Quezon City, Philippines
  • Area: 10,117 sqm
  • Height limitations: 10 meters
  • Maximum Built Up Area: 10,117 sq.m.
  • Ground coverage: 50%
  • Coordinates: 14°39'05.6"N 121°07'37.3"E

Quezon City is a highly urbanized city and the most populous city in the Philippines. Second-most populous city. It is highly urbanized and as of 2019 was the world’s most densely populated city. 7 out of 21 kilometers of the fault line pass through Quezon City, making 9 local communities or around 15,800 families vulnerable to earthquake risks.

The city is located near Manila, which is ranked the richest city to live in due to tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and landslides. Provisions for temporary shelters and other necessities for the ever-growing population of the city during earthquakes are the need of the hour.

The site is located in a way to allow people to gather during the crisis and provide immediate emergency resources.

Program outline

The design challenge looks at 150 — G+1, and 50 single shelter temporary units during disasters. There are two expected stages in submission, one is a single unit for a single-family or 2–3 families, other is the G+1 for 3–4 families.

Similarly, a community action plan for the planning of multiple units is also required for your design proposal to complete. Conceptual management of services and layout of essential facilities and toilets can be indicated on the master plan.

  • Residential — Housing units: A detailed design of housing units is mandatory for this challenge.

Single units: 1BHK 25 units, 2BHK 25 units

G+1 units: 2BHK 75 units, 3BHK 75 units.

  • Community: Temporary infrastructure for Common public areas like places of gathering and recreation etc. These can be open areas that need not be detailed for this challenge but can be a part of the master plan.
  • Services: Units for healthcare, administration and food/water services, etc. These spaces need not be detailed for this challenge but can be a part of the master plan.

Find all the competition brief, terms, and other registration guidelines on this

page: Tremors | Extreme Architecture Competition on UNI | About

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