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, 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