[Culture] House on stilts in Woloan, Tomohon

When I’m traveling in Sulawesi, I notice that most of the city outskirt, small towns and villages housing still prefer ‘rumah panggung‘ (house on stilts). I decide to visit Woloan village, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, a well known home industry for Minahasa knockdown wooden houses.


On this particular street, visitors can see the houses showcase with various size and designs; from the Minahasa traditional type to modern design. Entering one of the house, I’am lucky to meet one of the builder, Mr. Stanley. He works as a builder and an architect for Minahasa wooden houses almost his whole life. He explains to me that he inherited the family business from his father and his grandfather like most builders in the area.


The Minahasa knock down wooden house concept of ‘rumah panggung‘ is raise the house’s foundation 1-2 metres above the ground so it doesn’t cover the soil, to avoid flood, humidity or wild animals. The construction is very light and the joints are connected with wood, not with nails, to make it easy to de-assemble, move to another area and re-assemble again. The wooden structure is made of iron wood, strong but elastic, to follow the earth’s movement, especially during an earthquake. Many of the North Sulawesi area still have active volcanos, like mount Mahawu and mount Lokon in Tomohon.

This ‘rumang panggung’ house has a higher stilts. This is a 3 bed rooms house in the second floor with a living room, 1 toilet and a front and a back den. Costumers can request from a one bed room house to x rooms house. The largest house mr.Stanley made is around 7.5 x 30 m for a 20 rooms dormitory. The dormitory finished in 4 months. A smaller house though can take around 3 to 4 weeks to built.


In Minahasa, the kitchen is usually outside but still attached to the main house to avoid fire. Because of the height above the ground like this one, sometimes the family use the first floor for the garage, a storage or where they keep the livestock.

Kalawit, or the wood construction lift beams that crossed over ride the longer beams and sumpeleng, wood construction like an ‘X”

In current years, there’s a reduction in production because the types of ironwood they use are getting rare and become more expensive. They are ipil trees (Instia bijuga), nyatoh trees (Palaquium spp.) and magnolia champaca (Michelia champaca L.).


Through local research, they use substitute ironwood with almost the same characteristic wood like the three above.  These 6 types have a stable thickness and good elasticity: aliwowos (Homalium foetidum Benth), rorum (Heritiera littoralis Dryand), bugis (Koordersiodendron pinnatum Merr.), binuan (Octomeles sumatrana Miq.), bolangintang (Litsea sp.) and kenari (Canarium sp.) from North Sulawesi area, Bolaan Mongondow or Gorontalo, Palu or South East Sulawesi.


Aliwowos wood has the heaviest weight and usually use for the main foundation’s structure, for example for the main pillars (Wale Meito’tol). While rorum and bugis wood can be use for the house’s skeleton and the floor’s foundation. The lighter wood is bolangintang and nyatoh, they are used for the floor layer, walls, the ceiling and the platform.


The ceiling use asbestos roof but sometimes customer request thatch ceiling because it’s cooler in hot weather and insulate enough for a cool weather.


The ceiling then covered with well-placed wood to give it a little design.

Rumah Panggung made by Mr. Stanley are sold to Bali and Java. The price range depends on how large the customer’s order is; for example a small house may starts at Rp. 15.000.000 and multiply from there for maybe around Rp. 300.000.000 or more.

They made and assemble the wooden house here and when a customer like to buy one, the house is dis-assemble and put it on a container. If the customers still in Sulawesi, they use truck and if the customers are across the sea, Mr. Stanley ships the container. No worries, he says, when it reaches the customer’s destination, his team is ready to re-assembling the house.

Some larger companies made the knockdown houses with export quality and already ship them as far as Malaysia, Philippines, Swiss, Dutch, Japan and other countries for housing, cottage and other buildings.

North Sulawesi trip:

Source: Research Journal Indonesia Forest, Woloan Rumah Panggung



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