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Ramboll volunteers enter next phase of quake-proof housing pilot

10 Dec 19 Volunteers from consultant Ramboll are to continue work on the development of earthquake-resistant bamboo homes after returning from an Indonesian island where the first three have been built.

Three houses have been built to serve as templates for others across the country
Three houses have been built to serve as templates for others across the country

Ramboll has worked alongside UCL scientists and a local NGO to develop a way of constructing safe, sustainable houses on the island on Lombok, following multiple destructive earthquakes in 2018.

Now that the team has returned to the UK, Ramboll will be continuing to perfect the design and create step-to-step construction guides, with the long-term aim of promoting the wider adoption of safe and sustainable housing solutions across additional earthquake-prone regions.

The first three houses have now been completed, acting as a blueprint for the community to produce further homes.

Ramboll was called on by Lombok-based charity Grenzeloos Milieu and created designs for houses built entirely from locally sourced bamboo. The mission was to encourage the adoption of bamboo as a practical, low-cost and, most importantly, safe material to rebuild the island’s depleted housing stock.

The team constructed three template houses across three villages which are open to the local public so they can experience first-hand the quality and sturdiness of bamboo structures and change their perceptions of bamboo housing.

Ramboll structural engineer and project lead Marcin Dawydzik  said that simply building sustainable bamboo houses doesn’t go far enough. “The local community required the skills and know-how, so that local craftsmen can respond to demand. We worked closely with local construction teams to adapt our designs according to local customs. We explained the principles and practical designs in workshops with local construction teams so that they could then spread the word about the potential of bamboo housing.”

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Bambang, a skilled builder from Indonesia’s most populous island Java, worked on one of the template houses and is keen to take his newly learned skills back to Java. He was impressed by the quality, design and sturdiness of the houses and is confident there is a demand for such buildings back on his home island. “I’ve not seen bamboo used in this way – it’s much stronger and more modern.” Bambang plans to build his own bamboo house with his newly acquired skills.

Els Houttave, from local NGO Grenzeloos Milieu, was keen to emphasise the sustainable benefits of bamboo to the local communities, commenting: “The advantage of bamboo is that locals can not only grow it themselves, but also build with it themselves. It will enable independence.”

Ramboll’s Xavier Echegaray Jaile emphasised that bamboo facilitates a closed loop economy. “One year after planting bamboo, the young sprouts can be eaten, and once the food is harvested it creates more room for the remaining bamboo to mature,” he said. In five years, the bamboo is ready to be used for constructing houses and furniture, while at the end of its usable life it can be composted and used on the bamboo growing fields again.”

Back in the UK, plans are now under way to spread the learning further. UCL scientists 3D scanned every bamboo piece to help understand the structural behaviours of the material, with these insights now being used to inform academic publications to enable safer adoption of bamboo. Meanwhile, Grenzeloos Milieu will be continuing the workshops in Lombok and overseeing the construction of several more template houses. Once they are complete, there will be a bamboo template house in each of the most earthquake-affected villages in Lombok to be used for educational purposes.

Ramboll will continue to perfect the design and complete step-by step-guides so others can easily build their own bamboo houses, with the ultimate aim of promoting the adoption of safe and sustainable housing solutions across wider earthquake-prone regions.

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