Bamboo Houses
Across the globe, millions of people are suffering from homelessness. In 2017, Habitat for Humanity approximated that 1.6 billion people worldwide suffered from inadequate housing. With the global population continuing to rise, the need for housing across the globe is becoming dire. More than half the planet’s population lives in urban areas, yet affordable housing is inaccessible. The answer to this housing inadequacy could come from one of the fastest-growing grasses on the planet — bamboo. Bamboo houses stand as an affordable solution to the global housing crisis.

What is Bamboo?

Bamboo is a tree-like grass that rapidly grows throughout countries with subtropical and tropical temperatures. The plant is most commonly found in South America and Asia but also exists in specific regions in North America, Australia and Africa. The unique aspect of this plant is its quick regrowth. Certain species of bamboo can grow 2.91 feet in just one day. Bamboo is durable, sustainable and strong. In fact, bamboo has a greater tensile strength than steel.

Bamboo is also an eco-friendly alternative to many different building materials. Bamboo contributes to the sequestration of carbon — “When properly managed and intensively harvested, bamboo can sequester up to 1.78 tonnes of CO2 per clump per year,” One Tree Planted says. Another study estimated that bamboo contributed to 27.38 million tons of oxygen per annum just in India alone.

The Potential of Bamboo Houses

Not only is the plant durable and sustainable but bamboo is also affordable. Bamboo is accessible and inexpensive in many parts of the world experiencing rapid urban growth. Besides its wide accessibility, because of the strength of the plant, bamboo is an optimal building material choice when creating houses in certain climates. Changing weather patterns have affected housing in drastic ways. More extreme weather has led to more fires, more hurricanes and the destruction of homes. Bamboo houses, however, prove resilient against extreme weather.

The Climate Smart Forest Economy Program began a climate-resilient bamboo housing initiative in Guatemala called CASSA. When tropical storm Julia hit, the program reported good news. “The CASSA bamboo houses were some of the few houses left undamaged by the storm. The bamboo structures held up against the incredibly strong winds and, because they are built on stilts, they avoided being flooded,” consultant Kagisho Koza said.

Not only is bamboo resistant to strong winds and flood damage but bamboo is also fireproof. Because of the high content of water in the bamboo, the plant can endure temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius. This makes bamboo a great choice for building in areas where wildfires are common.

CASSA’s Work

CASSA, a sustainable construction company in Guatemala, is showcasing the value of bamboo in providing shelter for those in need. Across Guatemala, refugees of climate emergencies have been building bamboo houses with their very own tool kits developed by the Climate Smart Forestry Program. CASSA and the Climate Smart Forestry Program have been working together to get these toolkits out so that people affected by climate emergencies, such as hurricanes and flooding, have the ability and knowledge to create these bamboo houses and also pass their knowledge on to more people in their communities.

“Within five years, the four hectares of bamboo plantations supplying CASSA, for example, are expected to provide enough sustainable bamboo to build 40 homes per year, while also providing jobs and training for the local community and having a positive climate impact,” the World Economic Forum reports.

Providing shelter to the millions of people lacking adequate housing globally must stand as a priority. Bamboo houses are cost-effective and easily accessible in many countries where homelessness is on the rise. The durability and sustainability of the plant make it reliable in places most affected by extreme weather events.

– Olivia MacGregor
Photo: Flickr

Bamboo HousesOne young and ambitious entrepreneur is rising to the occasion in response to the Philippines’ problem of poverty with the invention of bamboo houses.

Poverty in the Philippines

Although the island’s poverty rate has recently fallen from 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015, it still saw approximately 22 million living below the national poverty line. That is over one-fifth of the population.

The creation of jobs outside of agriculture is helping lift the nation out of impoverishment. Unfortunately, constraints like inequality of income and opportunities, the effects of natural disasters and an increasing population prevent many families from achieving a higher quality of life.

Homelessness is something that many Filipino citizens contend with. The Philippines has a rapidly increasing population. In fact, it is estimated to reach 12 million by 2030. Currently, 44 percent of people residing in urban environments live in slums. Furthermore, 1.2 million children are homeless throughout the islands. Manila, the capital, holds 3.1 million homeless Filipinos. Of these residents, 70,000 are children. An imminent need for affordable and durable houses is upon the nation.

The invention of bamboo houses is an innovative solution to finally aid this country’s poverty and homeless crisis.

Cubo Bamboo Houses in the Philippines

A recent graduate from Ateneo de Manila University, Earl Forlales, has conceptualized a fast way to easily assemble affordable houses out of bamboo. Bamboo grows quickly and abundantly on the islands. It is able to be processed into sturdy building material. Forlales said he got the idea for what he’s named “Cubo units” from the structure of nipa huts. These are native houses popular in the rural Philippines.

“The Cubo unit itself is a standard three-by-four-meter studio meant to house two residents,” Forlales explained. “The prefabricated modules only take four hours to install on-site and would only cost roughly Php 4,200 (around $82) per square meter.”

These bamboo houses may be compact, but they are designed to last for around 50 years. Aside from the residential units, Cubo blueprints for daycare and community centers are also being designed. With the versatility of these designs, a small neighborhood will be able to be revitalized in a matter of days.

Today, Forlales’ Cubo units are closer to actual construction than ever before. The young entrepreneur recently won the United Kingdom’s Cities for Our Future competition, winning over 1,200 entries and walking away with enough prize money to help him jump-start his business. Now, Forlales has a website up-and-running for the company. Additionally, he is working to assemble a five-star team that will help his award-winning visions into reality.

Bamboo Houses: The Big Picture

Although Cubo bamboo houses were created with low-income Manila neighborhoods in mind, the designs are applicable to any region where bamboo can be grown. The potential of the idea has no limit and can help hundreds of disadvantaged families live comfortably where they had once been victimized.

Forlales’ vision is something to be admired. He is more than ready to set his plans into motion and begin construction.

“My ultimate dream [is a] Philippines with no slums…I really just want to do something that would impact peoples’ lives, and ideally that something would outlive me.”

Though it may be too early to tell, it seems that his bamboo houses may just set the new norm for living conditions in urban Manila. One idea will positively affect its residents for generations to come.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr