Sustainable Bamboo Housing Is Being Built in Earthquake-Prone Indonesia

The engineering company Ramboll has collaborated with University College London to build bamboo housing in Lombok, Indonesia. The Indonesian charity Grenzeloos Milieu requested the company’s services for constructing earthquake-proof buildings.

The country is often prone to violent weather events, resulting in devastating home destruction. Local people develop their homes and buildings from concrete, timber or brick — none of which hold up well when combined with their typical building techniques.

Bamboo answers many safety concerns due to its strength — it serves well for walls, flooring, roofs and more. Its eco-friendliness and abundance are also notable positives. Using it for construction purposes has garnered success all over the world, and it works equally well for weather-stricken places.

Building With Bamboo

Bamboo costs less than human-made materials and is a renewable resource, making it easier to procure. This plant grows all over Indonesia and replenishes itself quickly. Due to its abundance, there’s a lower chance of harvesters depleting it, which often happens when cutting down trees for lumber.

The three homes that Ramboll created stand on sturdy cross-braced columns. The walls consist of both bamboo canes and woven sheets. Open floor plans let air filter in, providing passive ventilation. The Ramboll builders likely used bamboo preparation techniques similar to other architectural projects, such as the Bambu Bandara in Tanete Village, Indonesia. 

The Bambu Bandara contractors drilled into the canes to remove the pulp before treating them with borax. They also soaked the material to remove the sugars, which protects the wood against insects. Asian architects have used both woven and split bamboo within structures for centuries. These techniques have begun to grow in prevalence across the world due to the growing sustainable movement.

Of course, the houses need sustainable flooring and roofing to go along with the foundational structure. The three homes in Lombok have roofs consisting of recycled Tetra Paks, reused drink containers. Sustainable buildings like these can benefit from sustainable flooring, which requires few nonrenewable resources and little processing to create.

Growing Bamboo for Houses

Creating bamboo structures involves raising, harvesting and preserving the plant from youth to maturity. The types of bamboo you’ll most likely find in an Indonesian construction project are bambu duri and pring ori. Mongabay states that these plants grow up to three feet in a year, and they can restore groundwater supplies in dry areas. 

The roots filter water from nearby wells while also storing carbon underground. You can solve two environmental issues at once by planting a few shoots in your yard. This plant also grows well within various soil types, making it easy to raise in numerous parts of the world. Its water-conserving abilities allow it to nurture the soil while receiving nutrients, creating an ideal exchange.

Growing bamboo for buildings benefits the local economy because it supplies jobs. Someone must be there to care for and pick the plants, and builders are always in high demand. The shoots even serve as a nutritious food source when prepared correctly. Numerous advantages come with growing this tropical plant, and you can capitalize on them all with planning and resourcefulness.

Sharing Sustainable Building Techniques

The builders from Ramboll have enlisted local citizens — both skilled and unskilled — to help with constructing the bamboo template houses. They did this to allow room for learning and skill acquisition within the community.

Many Indonesian villages procure materials and talent from Western countries, as working with concrete requires knowledge many don’t have. Teaching workers how to construct homes from homegrown materials gives them more independence and control over their structures.

The core concept of sustainability involves a commitment to social change, which Ramboll is accomplishing by sharing building techniques. They give people the tools and knowledge they need to sustain themselves and protect their communities from further damage. They can enjoy a higher quality of life from avoiding earthquake-induced destruction. Higher employment also means more money, allowing people to support their families.

Changing the Landscape of Construction

University College London and Ramboll are using their new knowledge about bamboo building to create enhanced ways of working with the material. The company’s goal is to disseminate these strategies among other builders — especially those who service areas prone to destructive weather events. Sustainable does much more than conserve water and save energy — it also saves lives.

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