Re­build­ing af­ter Chi­nese Earth­quake: Beau­ti­ful Bam­boo Homes

Southern Innovator - - CITIES & URBANIZATION -

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.

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