Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wooden house an eco-friendly home

Wooden house should be part of an eco-friendly living habitat. We cannot see buildings which are made of wood only as "work of art" or as "products" that appear on colorful pages of glossy architectural magazines. In big cities, modern houses are constructed using steel frames, ceramic tiles, and expensive bricks and  pre-fabricated wall panels. The production of such materials consumes a lot of energy. The maintenance of the houses is also expensive due to the use of air conditioning equipment in every room. Although these concrete houses look luxurious and comfortable, they are not environmentally friendly. I remember watching a program in NHK which describes how the wooden houses in Japanese cultural city of Kyoto attract a lot of tourists (please, read: Wooden House and Alleyway of Kyoto)
An eco-friendly house, as a matter of fact, should be a dwelling place that closely connected to its surrounding environment - a house that is united with the society and the climate where it is built.  It does not need a lot of heating or cooling equipment to make itself as a comfortable home.
Last December 2010, I traveled with some Dutch tourists by car from Arfak mountains to Manokwari city. Along the way, I saw various types of houses. Many are made of concrete whereas some are constructed of timber. Timber framed or wooden houses in this city is now becoming more and more popular following several big earthquakes that hit Manokwari city in the last 5 years. The indigenous Papuan people have already built their own wooden houses known as rumah kaki seribu meaning "home with one thousand feet." This traditional wood house from Arfak mountains has a lot of pillars that supports it around 1-2 meters above the ground. Because the type of this house is a stage house, it is cool during the day due to free circulation of air that passes through the pillars under the floor of the house.
Although these kaki seribu wooden houses are more resistant to earthquake, they do not have good ventilation. I can understand why the kaki seribu house does not have adequate number of windows. This type of house is mostly built in Arfak mountains at the heights between 1,500 to 2,000 meters above the sea level. The air temperature in such heights is very cool. Perhaps that is the reason why people in Manokwari city prefer to have houses that are different in design from the Kaki Seribu house. When such house is built near the coastal region whose climate is hot, the indoor air quality is bad due to the lack of windows and other ventilation holes.
 Wooden houses with Minahasan design are more popular now because they have been modified to hot climate of tropical region. In addition, the workmanship of the interior has been adapted to modern lifestyle. Some carpenters from Woloan and Leilem in Minahasa regency have moved to Papua to work as home builders in a number of cities and towns in Papua. With the experience and building skills that, as well as the wood working tools, that they have, they can easily sell Minahasan wooden houses in Manokwari city. It is my personal concern that the kaki seribu house is gradually being forgotten by Papuan people in Manokwari city of West Papua province.
But I still believe that the Kaki Seribu house can still be modified to adapt with the warm temperature of the coastal region. The addition of windows, the improvements in the building methods and the rearrangements of living room and bedrooms will make this kaki seribu house regain its position again as an eco-friendly dwelling place in Manokwari city and its surrounding areas. by Charles Roring