Rebuilding after Chinese Earthquake: Beautiful Bamboo Homes
The 12 May 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China killed more than 70,000 people. China’s strongest earthquake for more than half a century, with a magnitude of 8.0, it devastated large parts of the Province of Sichuan. More than 10 million people were made homeless, most of them poor and elderly villagers (cities were not badly damaged).
Getting Sichuan back to normal is critical not only for the province’s people but for all of China. Sichuan is China’s rice bowl, growing more food than any other province. However, despite the abundance of food, Sichuan remains poor and has seen its working-age population move away for work. If it is to have a viable future, then its communities need to get back to normal as fast as possible – and its farming economy back to full production.
Finding ways to rehouse people after large disasters has become an urgent issue over the last five years. From the Asian tsunami to Hurricane Katrina in the United States and multiple hurricane disasters in the Caribbean, restoring communities is critical for the health of the people and the economies that they rely on. Experience has shown that temporary shelters have many drawbacks, being usually of poor quality for long-term habitation and a source of health problems.
The temporary shelters erected for the Sichuan homeless are unsuitable for long-term housing: the 12-square-metre grey boxes – two sheets of aluminium sandwiching a polystyrene core for insulation – have no heating. The occupants roast inside in the summer and freeze in the winter. The shelters are also located away from the main source of income: the farms.
The dilemma is how to build new, long-term houses that will not cost too much. Inflation has increased the costs of conventional building materials: bricks, cement and steel.
The use of traditional building materials and home designs offers an alternative, however. By drawing on the abundant bamboo and wood in Sichuan and working to traditional designs, cheaper but sturdy and beautiful homes can be built.
An average home now costs around 80,000 yuan (US$11,688). The Government of China estimates that the price is now 820 yuan per square metre for a new home: bamboo homes cost between 300 and 400 yuan per square metre. Government compensation is between 16,000 yuan (US$2,337) and 23,000 yuan (US$3,360) per family. The bamboo houses range in size from 75 to 200 square metres and in cost from 22,500 yuan to 80,000 yuan for a very large home.
In Daping village, Pengzhou town, original homes destroyed by the earthquake sit at the edge of a forested hill. Their frames are more or less intact, but the walls and roofs have collapsed. New houses replacing them are large, with two stories and solid grey, clay tile roofs. The beauty of the designs stands out and sits in stark contrast to the temporary shelters and concrete buildings.
“There are 43 houses and two public buildings being rebuilt in this project,” said team member Hu Rong Rong of the Green Building Research Centre of Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology. “The design and the main building material are based on the ecological and sustainable habitat idea. The place (Sichuan) is rich in bamboo and wood. These natural materials are cheap and friendly to the environment. In some buildings, we use light steel which can be also recycled.” – (May 2009)
One of the bamboo homes under construction.
An example of a home damaged by the earthquake.