Building & Renovating

This Tiny Home in the Mountains Remained Standing After Typhoon Odette

The choice of building materials and overall design played a role in keeping it intact as the typhoon passed over Cebu

Photography: M+S Studio Co.

How do you build a typhoon-proof home? In a country like ours, where an average of 20 typhoons pass by annually, this has become an important question. Is it in the materials we choose or does the overall design matter?

In 2021, just a few weeks before Christmas, Typhoon Odette ravaged the islands of Visayas and Mindanao, leaving thousands homeless and numerous structures destroyed. As those affected slowly rebuild, the question concerning building typhoon-ready structures has once again resurfaced.

A tiny home among the trees


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In May 2021, Real Living featured Marvin and Sheryl Mariñas’s quaint house among the trees. Found in an uphill mountain, the house piqued the interest of many homeowners because it featured the use of natural materials like nipa and wood. It’s also inspiring how it blends with its surroundings and how it respects the trees that were there even before they decided to build a house.

READ: How to Deal With a Leaky Ceiling, Roof During a Typhoon


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There are three mature native trees in the location and these have become a major consideration when Marvin, who is an architect, finalized the home’s space planning. At first glance, one would immediately think how the house can weather strong rains and even a typhoon. It didn’t help that it was surrounded by trees, too.

When the owners heard learned about Typhoon Odette, they weren’t worried since numerous typhoons have already passed and each one left minimal or no damage to the property at all. In a recent interview with Real Living, the couple admitted they were more concerned with the timeline of their ongoing farm project as most of the staff were on holiday leave.

READ: This Couple Transformed Their Once-Flooded Bedroom With a P40,000 Budget

Weathering typhoons and heavy rains


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Pictured above: The house after Typhoon Odette made a landfall in Cebu. There were fallen leaves and branches outside the home.

As reported in the news, Typhoon Odette was the strongest typhoon that passed by the Philippines in 2021. It also made nine landfalls in different areas, one of which was recorded in Cebu where the Mariñas’s home is. In an update they shared on their design studio’s Facebook page, Marvin and Sheryl shared how their home “made it almost unscathed.” The couple said their floors got wet but the natural vegetation helped dissipate the strong winds.

“At the height of the typhoon, at its strongest, we felt the strong winds blowing from every direction. Should we have walls or solid surface meeting those blows, our house would naturally have vibrated, shaken, or worst, took off our roof or toppled down our walls. Yet the vernacular open type tropical design allowed the strong winds to pass freely through and through,” the post continues.

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How did a tiny home built with natural materials withstand Typhoon Odette? We asked the design duo for tips and insights:

The three mature native trees played a role in keeping the house standing.


Pictured above: The dining area where one of the native trees is standing. According to the couple, "the horizontal wind blew some amount of rainwater, and the plastic connection of the tree and roof has leaked after being shaken vigorously by the wind."

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Highlighted in our previously published tour of the house are the three mature native trees that the owners incorporated into their design. Since the home is located on a steep terrain, the roots of the trees helped hold the soil from erosion. “It also helped stabilize the surrounding soil of the house. Since they are matured, we are not worried that the root system will spread wider to the house foundations and retaining walls,” explains Marvin.

The native trees are commonly used in tropical climates as these resilient during typhoons. “These trees also serve as wind buffers so that the wind strength dissipates before reaching your zone,” he adds.

The house is designed to allow wind flow in four corners.


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In photo: A close-up photo of the house taken before the typhoon.

“Having screened walls and no glass covers help in materializing the intent of allowing wind to flow freely,” share the couple. Most of the major structural elements of the house are made of wood as well which ensured little movement when exposed to strong winds.


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In photo: An open structure within the property that also remained intact after the typhoon.

One of the couple’s on-going projects within the property wasn’t affected by Typhoon Odette at all. “This was due to the fact that the bamboo material is very flexible and partnered with an open design, it allowed airflow,” says Marvin.

The home’s vernacular open-type tropical design helped.


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Pictured above: The state of the house post-typhoon. It looks the same but the outdoors needed cleaning and sweeping.

According to the couple, design evolves because of climate change and stronger typhoons. “Tropical design considers cross-ventilation and allows wind flow to pass through rather than limiting it by building solid walls, these are evident in Filipino houses with openings on the floor level and under the roof. As mentioned, these design considerations help balance different inside and outside pressures that sometimes cause roof or ceiling damages especially when the build system is poor,” Marvin explains.


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Typhoon Odette inspired the couple to make improvements within their property. When the grid-tied power was out, the pumps won't work so they had to fetch water manually. "Now we added another water source from uphill rivers that don't need pumps to flow as backup. For electricity, the overhead lines from our solar stations were damaged from fallen branches... we will be putting the power lines and wires underground in the near future," they explain.

At the end of the day, Marvin and Sheryl value the importance of hiring design professionals who can help homeowners achieve a safe and sturdy home. “It’s easy to say that the safest design is to build a solid concrete or steel structure from the foundation to the walls and roof. However, we need to consider its practicality in terms of build cost and living comfort,” they share.

Marvin and Sheryl are the professionals behind M+S Studio Co. Marvin is an architect and Sheryl is an interior designer. To see some of their projects, you can follow them on Facebook. You can also visit their website at www.msstudioco.com or follow them on Instagram @msstudioco

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