In 2018, several earthquakes measuring up to 7 on the Richter scale struck the island of Lombok, Indonesia, leaving over 500 dead, 129,000 houses damaged and 445,000 homeless. The most affected were the rural areas.
Ramboll is working in partnership with University College London (UCL) and a local charity, Grenzeloos Milieu, on the new low-cost housing. Grenzeloos Milieu approached Ramboll last year for help in developing a sustainable and resilient solution to the island’s housing problem. The team from Ramboll has applied digital design techniques to produce building templates for earthquake-resistant homes that use bamboo – which is abundant in the area - as a construction material.
During their time on the island, Ramboll volunteers will be constructing template homes and working with local communities to impart the required technical expertise for building additional bamboo houses across the island. The completed houses will serve as a blueprint for earthquake-resistant bamboo housing for the wider region.
Over the next two months volunteers will guide and oversee the construction of three template houses across three villages. This comes after a year of workshops, research and design by Ramboll’s engineers.
Marcin Dawydzik, structural engineer at Ramboll and the project lead, visited the island after the earthquakes and developed the architectural design together with the local community. “In Indonesia I saw entire villages flattened by the earthquake, and in many cases all that remained were the building foundations,” he said. “The lack of reinforcement in the buildings meant the damage, and consequential loss of life, was far greater than it should have been. I believe that through developing a structurally safe and sustainable housing design, that can easily be replicated by locals, we will support the people of Lombok to become better prepared for future earthquakes, as well as to utilise the brilliant natural resources of the island.”
The lack of design codes for safe bamboo housing led Ramboll and UCL to test the bamboo properties to validate the research and ensure that the bamboo being sourced had similar properties to those found in academic publications.
The testing enabled Ramboll to design the house and size the bamboo elements. A team from UCL will visit Indonesia during the construction of the template houses to carry out 3D scanning of every bamboo piece, add barcodes and track their final position. This will allow Ramboll to back-analyse the houses, understand the material better and refine the design in the future.
UCL lecturer in civil, environmental and geomatic engineering Dr Rodolfo Lorenzo added: “New design and fabrication workflows for structural bamboo based on advanced digital technologies can push forward the use of this sustainable building material to support the development of resilient infrastructure in the region. The progressive engineering approach of Ramboll and the invaluable support from Grenzeloos Milieu have provided the perfect backdrop to translate academic research into practical activities and knowledge for the benefit of local communities in Indonesia.”
For the construction phase the team has employed local skilled and unskilled labour to encourage shared learning and to bring the community together. The completed houses will serve as template homes and community centres, where the local charity will host construction workshops developed by Ramboll, teaching local communities about the principles of structural safety and ensuring that there is the required technical expertise for constructing further bamboo houses across the island. All of this will be supported by a step-by-step manual.
Grenzeloos Milieu founder Els Houttave said: “As an island that experiences earthquakes regularly, it is time to make a real difference to the people of Lombok and help deliver safe, sustainable homes. We are very grateful to the Ramboll and UCL team, who have demonstrated great enthusiasm and commitment to help this project come to life.”
The Lombok Bamboo Housing project will serve as a blueprint for earthquake-resistant bamboo housing for the wider Shelter forum and humanitarian sector. The designs and lessons will be made freely available, so other communities can be supported to build more resilient homes.