One of the many pressing challenges that the new decade has given us is the answer to respond to the needs of the environment. More and more companies are becoming aware of the earth’s degrading health.
Companies are contributing efforts to fight climate change by reducing humanity’s carbon footprint, whether it be by using alternative energy sources or using eco-friendly materials in their products. To help with the cause, Brands such as Ikea advocate for using recycled materials in their products, while Gap and Klean Kanteen promote the use of renewable energy in their factories and stores.
One of the more successful responses to observing the ‘green movement’ is tailoring one’s products and services to not just provide quality but also a lasting positive impact on the environment. Bart Christian Corpus, CEO of BELCOR, together with company Chairman, Ricardo Belmonte Jr., believes that designing stylish, cost-effective, and sustainable homes is a step in the right direction to a greener future.
Facing the earth’s sickness
In light of recent catastrophic events such as sudden volcanic eruptions, uncontrollable wildfires, and the continuously thinning ice caps, people are becoming more concerned with initiating a response in preparation for the future. Various institutions worldwide are implementing massive green-based urbanization plans such as Sadiq Kahn’s ‘London Plan’ for zero carbon emissions around the capital for a target date of 2050. Climate change is an issue that affects us all, especially developing countries. The vulnerability of livelihoods, primarily in the agricultural district, is at risk if systems are not changed to adapt to the needs of the environment.
Among the significant contributors to climate change are air pollution and an increase in carbon footprint. These two factors are primarily due to the unregulated production of human- made greenhouse gasses that come from manufacturing plants and dense urban cities. The adverse effects of accumulating greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere lead to oil slicks and acid rain, further damaging the natural state of the environment.
The impact of climate change can be seen through the unpredictable shifts in weather, such as prolonged rainy and summer seasons in the Philippines. The world needs more than just our attention but also a concrete plan of action.
Housing in the Philippines
Prime real estate is hard to come by in the Philippines. The last couple of years have shown significant developments in apartment buildings, with presales in the business districts reaching as far as 54,000 units in 2018. These spaces are a mix of both residential and commercial units, making prices skyrocket over time due to inflation.
The traditional dream of owning one’s own home is far from dead, but it doesn’t have to be a road to bankruptcy or a life of being stuck in low-cost substandard dwellings. The yearly increase in rent interests and accompanying maintenance fees is a troubling concern for potential owners who are better off buying a house and lot instead of renting an apartment in the long term.
Noticing the need for economical homes in the market and recognizing the importance of addressing the need to do his part in alleviating the ecosystem’s imbalance, CEO Bart Corpus initiated his plans to start BELCOR to attempt to fix both the housing
situation and the earth’s condition. BELCOR’s unique proposition is in turning around the negative notions on the townhouse by invigorating its design and purpose to fit in a green direction that answers the call for cost-effective and sustainable housing.
Building homes for the future
BELCOR is one of the leading construction and development corporations when it comes to having a ‘green’ mindset. The company’s beginnings in 2014 were due to Corpus and Belmonte seeing three issues at the time in the Philippines.
Firstly, there was a majority of raw housing projects that followed a townhouse format that, to them, appeared to be mediocre standards in terms of design. Secondly, though these homes were sufficient for basic needs, they noticed how these homes
were too expensive for middle-class earners, primarily to OFW families. And lastly, noticing the need for quality in terms of design and affordability, they saw the necessity to move beyond just what they want to see as developers and what their customers can afford, but also what the earth needs by integrating energy efficiency to BELCOR’s projects. In answering these three issues, Corpus and Belmonte set these as their guide to developing their projects.
Seeing that the current market prices of properties at the time seemed to have a disconnect with the value that customers received upon purchase, the two wanted to make a difference by creating projects that are worth their customer’s investment in the long term. Corpus states that as home developers, “We need to be considerate with customers, we want to make it easier for customers to be confident in purchasing their properties. To get what you pay for.” He then envisioned an idea to establish a company that would be known for projects that are aesthetically defined, architecturally sound, and of good value for its prices compared to its competitors in the industry.
Corpus sees the opportunity of owning a home to be a matter of pride for first- time buyers to have a place of their own to call home. He feels that it is a developer’s responsibility to design a home that they, as developers themselves, would want to live in. With a modest capital to make his vision a reality, he built a partnership with his President, Ricardo Belmonte Jr, as they sought out to make BELCOR into a benchmark brand for Philippine townhomes when it comes to quality aesthetic design while answering the earth’s need for sustainable development.
Reinventing the image of townhomes
Townhouse complexes often get a bad rep for being a generic two-story building with cramped spaces, this common understanding that public housing as unattractive is prevalent to all countries; this negative connotation to the architectural archetype made Corpus want to challenge the idea that having a small area to work with would result in lousy products. Putting himself in his customer’s shoes, Corpus directs his architects in focusing on three aspects of the home: its design, accessibility, and capacity to promote sustainability.
The application of these principles led to the development of BELCOR’s first projects, the Pearl homes, and Ideal homes, that were planned and built from 2014 till 2016, located in a gated community in east Fairview. The individual units have a lot area of 100 sqm with a 145 sqm floor area. Taking it up a notch, the Varsity Lane homes and Casa Ysabel projects began construction in 2016 till 2018 strategically placed in Tandang Sora, QC. These units had a lot area of 60-90 sqm and a total floor area of 110 135 sqm.
The compact nature of the individual units observes the standard checklist of townhouse designs, but BELCOR steps it up a notch by incorporating contemporary designs are leagues above typical townhouse. As buyers first and foremost visual clients, they would choose to appraise property on its architecture before realizing other advantages that a house has to offer. The designs are composed of metal and wood elements as its base to incorporate a mix blend of Zen and Asian motifs that will stand the test of time in being stylish choices for homeowners for decades after owning the property.
In terms of location, Corpus makes it a priority to survey a potential project’s proximity with amenities that his customers would need, such as access to schools, hospitals, public transport, etc. He wants to ensure that purchasing a BELCOR property isn’t just about buying a house but also investing in a better and more comfortable way of life.
Noticing the lack of ‘green homes’ around QC, Corpus took the initiative to design and incorporate green building principles with his projects. Considering the need for sustainability, the individual units are fitted with large doors and windows for adequate natural lighting and ventilation. To top it off, all units are equipped with grid-tied solar panels that are meant to reduce the homeowners’ monthly energy consumption.
BELCOR projects are progressing ahead of a majority of its competitors in the scene by making a benchmark of environment and community-friendly designs while keeping their projects worth the purchase to their customers.
Casa Maia, Casa Catalina, and future plans
The meticulously planned housing projects of BELCOR have attracted clients not just because of their good value for what they’re worth, but also their strategic placement and design. Politicians, doctors, and even up-and-coming artists are recognizing that BELCOR townhomes are properties that are great to own. By proving that his projects are attractive purchases to the middle class and above, he has managed to break down the negative notions on townhomes for being cramped and unfashionable homes to live in.
BELCOR’s latest project is the Casa Catalina and Casa Maia, an eight and seven-unit, two-story lot respectively located within a gated community in Mapayapa, QC. The individual units contain three bedrooms, three toilets and baths, a powder room, a maid’s quarter, a lanai and service, area, and one garage. For the homeowner’s benefit, the kitchen has modular closets, phone and cable ready outlets, allotment for CCTV placement, and BELCOR’s signature grid-tied solar panels. All these features are neatly contained under a 130 sqm floor area, which is a feat in its own right.
Besides their two newest flagship projects, the company aims to continue to develop green pocket communities within prime locations within the city and beyond. Though most of their projects are based in Metro Manila, they have plans to expand their reach to properties in provinces. Real estate in greater Metro Manila, Paranaque, Rizal, Bulacan, and Cavite, are just a few of the areas that Corpus has set his eyes on.
Beyond housing projects, Corpus and Belmonte see the potential in introducing their brand of ‘green building’ to handle commercial mid-rise structures in the city and the potential development of self-sustaining villa resorts that embody BELCOR’s standard of aesthetic design and energy optimization.
Enjoying the Lifestyle
For a relatively young company that’s a little over six years of service, BELCOR’s success can be attributed to a company motto that reads ’Enjoy the Lifestyle.’ It is through this vision that BELCOR projects hope to embody not just but a positive lifestyle that affects not only their clients but also the community and environment around them.
The difficulty in making eco-homes mainstream is the reluctance of both homebuyers and developers to adjust to the needs of the times. The traditional fear of learning ‘new’ concepts is preventing people from accepting a solution that isn’t just cost-efficient but also energy-efficient for the environment. Though green building practices promote a lot of benefits such as reduction of operating cost, optimization of energy use, and the improvement of environmental conditions, the inability to overcome the hurdle of accepting change is proving to make a damaging mark on the earth’s declining health.
Most contractors aren’t so willing to adapt to green building principles due to a fear of dealing with learning new and costly maintenance practices. Thankfully enough, the upcoming wave of homebuyers is mostly thee Millennial generation who are more environmentally conscious oof the products and services that they buy. Corpus believes that a gradual change in adapting to the times is necessary to answer a need that’s beyond one home or one country, but for the entire planet’s survival.
He hopes to set a standard with BELCOR projects and see more developers and homebuyers to understand the importance of combining what the customer wants and what the earth needs. “As developers, it’s our duty to create a better future not just for our time but also for generations beyond.“ he adds, ”Contribute more to other people, the environment, and the community, to support designs and energy solutions that will stand the test of time.”
Photos by Billy Evangelista, Interior Decorator
With regards to BELCOR’s success, he expounds on BELCOR’s motto of ’Enjoy the Lifestyle’ by saying that “When you love what you do, money comes easily. But when you love where you live, your community, and your surroundings, that’s more fulfilling. You’re making a change – a lasting difference”.
Though the company will be taking on larger projects in the future, he still believes in providing for the needs of the people and the environment. “We will continue building more projects that embody our company’s statement at reasonable prices,” said Corpus.
Photos by Billy Evangelista, Interior Decorator
Addressing an environmental issue and an economic concern through eco-friendly and energy-saving designs is no simple task. Corpus and Belmonte saw a need for change and decided to rise to the challenge ahead of them. BELCOR is one of the few up and coming companies that are challenging the new ways that home development should be approached – by building with the earth in mind.
WORDS | Gerald Manuel
PHOTOS | Belcor Construction and Development Corporation