Making Bamboo Houses Easier to Build
More than 1 billion people around the world lack decent shelter. The majority of them live in urban areas, usually in slums and informal settlements (Un-habitat). Latin America has a serious shortage of adequate housing: in Colombia, 43 per cent of the population needs decent housing; in Brazil, it is 45 per cent; in Peru, 53 per cent.
The challenge is to provide good-quality homes without significantly harming the environment and with constrained budgets. Bamboo – cheap, strong, quickly renewable and beautiful to look at – is an ideal solution to replace traditional-wood lumber. In Bolivia, pioneering work is under way to improve the quality of homes and buildings made with bamboo.
Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world,sometimesgrowingover1metreaday.bolivia has about 17 identified bamboo species of which five have a significant economic value. Around the world, there are 1,000 species of bamboo. They grow in a wide variety of climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions.
The most popular species of bamboo used in South America is Guadua, which is known for being large, straight and attractive.
“In Bolivia, there is no other building material more competitive in costs,” said Jose Luis Reque Campero, coordinator of the Bolbambu Programme of the Architectural Research Institute, Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Bolivia.
“Bamboo is the material that requires less energy, followed by wood and concrete, with steel in last place, needing energy for its production that is 50 times greater than that required by bamboo. But the biggest advantage is certainly the possibility of planting bamboo, and then reaping houses,” he said.
Campero has focused his efforts on a key component of bamboo housing: the joints that bind the bamboo poles together. Driven by the desire to find ways to improve the ease of building bamboo homes and their strength, Campero came up with the Bamboo Bolivia Space Structures, Structural System: EVO (BBSS-EVO) (named after Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales). Traditional joints took a long time to make and required power tools and complex instruction manuals. Simplifying the building techniques necessary for bamboo construction was important because, while bamboo was cheap, the labour costs were high.
The joint looks like a giant two-headed Q-tip. Each end is made of four pieces of bamboo, connected by a long screw, with bolts on each end taken from old cars. The joint is inserted inside the bamboo poles and snaps shut, joining poles tightly together and, as each piece is assembled, looking like a child’s building toy as the structure of the bamboo home takes shape.
The new joint was easier to assemble and was quickly adopted by local builders. It also allows for a vast range of structures and shapes to be built, limited only by imagination and physics. – (December 2008)
The Bamboo Bolivia Space Structures, Structural System: EVO (BBSS-EVO)
An example of the design flexibility offered by the BBSS-EVO joint.