Bamboo has been used for thousands of years in Asia. Now, it might help solve the construction durability issue.
In search of new ways to build sustainable homes, Earl Forlales decided not to look to the future, but to the past.
His grandparents, like generations of Filipinos, lived in a “Bahay Kubo” – a traditional one-story bamboo hut on stilts, indigenous to the Philippines. âFilipinos have used bamboo (for shelter) even before colonial times, for thousands of years,â he says.
The company started production of its manufactured homes in November 2020. The structures can be assembled in just days and are expected to last up to 50 years, Forlales said. He hopes Cubo’s modular designs and the use of bamboo can “help accelerate sustainable construction” while providing affordable housing solutions for the Philippines housing crisis.
Cubo’s houses range from 30 to 63 square meters, with the largest accommodating up to six people. Credit: CUBO Modular Inc
A contemporary cubic house
Cubo’s bamboo houses incorporate many aspects of the traditional “Bahay Kubo” including a raised foundation and louvers, a type of window shade that allows natural ventilation and light.
The company’s first project was tested very quickly: in December 2020, just days after the construction of the first two houses, the region was hit by a magnitude six earthquake. Cubo’s houses survived unscathed.
Using all available space, the mezzanine bedrooms and fitted furniture make the most of these compact homes. Credit: CUBO Modular Inc
Cubo offers four different models, accommodating up to six residents. Each home is made to order and can be customized to include items such as solar panels on the roof, further reducing running costs and the carbon footprint of its residents.
The company currently produces six homes per month, but Forlales says demand is much higher and he hopes to increase supply.
âThe Filipinos warmly welcomed the product because it is very familiar,â he says. “They realized this was an intuitive evolution for our local bamboo houses.”
Bamboo building boom
Is bamboo the building material of the future?
While bamboo has been used to build small structures for thousands of years, âit is only now that we have safe and natural processing solutions that we can consider building multi-story buildings,â Elora explains. Hardy, Founder and Creative Director of Ibuku. While most of her projects use processed bamboo in its natural form, she adds that with advancements in engineered bamboo, there could be “skyscrapers and even entire cities that could be built out of bamboo.” in the future.
Ibuku specializes in sculptural villas, hotel complexes and “green” school campuses made from bamboo. Credit: Tommaso Riva / IBUKU
âStandards for mechanical testing of engineered bamboo materials are being developed; however, areas such as fire resistance require further study, âsays Sharma.
As a strong, fast-growing and renewable material, bamboo could complement sustainably harvested hardwoods, Sharma says, with the added benefit of bamboo plantations helping to restore degraded soils and lands.
From exterior structure to interior furnishings, Ibuku shows that bamboo can have varied applications in architecture and design. Credit: Indra Wiras / IBUKU
Help get out of a housing crisis
While durability is bamboo’s primary benefit, it’s not the only reason Cubo is turning to fast-growing grass as an alternative building material.
Cubo produces three houses in his workshop every two weeks, then takes three to five days to assemble each on site. Credit: CUBO Modular Inc
Cubo houses cost between 649,800 Philippine pesos ($ 12,900) and 1.8 million Philippine pesos ($ 35,738) – which is roughly comparable to mid-range homes built with conventional materials, says Forlales. . However, it aims to bring down prices by streamlining production and increasing automation in the workshop. The company has also introduced a payment plan, to help lower upfront costs for buyers.
With bamboo growing naturally throughout Asia, each country has âits own species of bamboo that you can use for construction,â Forlales explains, creating potential for building cubic houses beyond the Philippines as well.
âIn Asia, we have millions of square kilometers planted with bamboo. So it’s just a matter of tapping into other markets where you can get it, âhe adds.