“Building material of the future”

More and more Filipinos are interested in planting the once known as “humble bamboo” as it is making a comeback in housing construction, with some even calling it the “grass of hope”. “.

This giant grass species has been used for generations by Filipinos to build their traditional bahay kubo, or nipa hut.

Bamboo Buho with the famous Mount Binakayan in the background.

They use bamboo poles to build bridges, foundations for large structures, and braces, walls, or perimeter fences.

It is also used to make tables and chairs and other furniture.

However, bamboo’s popularity has been diminished by cement and other durable building materials, such as steel, fiberglass, and plastics.

Recurrence

In recent years, bamboo has become popular again and is even widely accepted for interior decoration, even among professional builders.

This awareness, along with the fact that bamboo is easy to grow, helps improve the condition of river banks, preventing soil erosion and flooding.

This prompted the government to identify bamboo as an “indispensable” planting material for the national greening program to promote its mass cultivation and maximize its potential.

In June 2022, President Duterte signed Proclamation 1401 declaring September Bamboo Month in the Philippines.

Promote bamboo

Last month, a world leader in bamboo research and technology, Base Bahay Foundation (Base), kicked off the celebration with a session in a series of architecture and design forums, called “Bamboost”. , which highlighted green technology and the use of bamboo. in construction.

Professional builders and bamboo enthusiasts gathered at Green Sun in Makati City to hear local and international experts in the field speak about local and international bamboo architecture and design.

Of course, they promote bamboo as a building material.

Learning series

The Bamboost Architecture and Design Forum was part of the Base learning series for bamboo construction enthusiasts.

The foundation has run free training programs for professional builders, such as architects and civil engineers, as part of its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) learning series.

It provides a head start in anticipation of the standardization of bamboo construction and design and the integration of bamboo into building codes.

Base is working with the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (Asep) to include bamboo in the next version of the National Structural Code of the Philippines.

Alternative construction technologies

An initiative of the Liechtenstein-based Hilti Foundation, Base continues to provide alternative building technologies to enable a network of partners to build quality socialized homes that are comfortable, affordable, disaster-resistant, environmentally friendly and have social impact.

To date, Base has built over 1,000 homes using its proprietary Cement-Bamboo Frame technology, housing approximately 5,000 people in 14 communities across the Philippines.

Internationally, Base is responsible for building disaster-resistant homes in Nepal.

Bamboo experts

Forum speakers include Colombia-based bamboo construction specialist and trainer Jörg Stamm. He is widely known for his design and construction of engineered bamboo structures in different countries.

Other speakers were Munir Vahanvati, Ray Villanueva, Christian Salandanan and base technology chief Luis Felipe Lopez.

Munir Vahanvati, an architect and urban planner who has worked with bamboo for over 15 years on a wide range of product and building design projects, large-scale infrastructure and urban regeneration projects, is co-founder of Green Grass . It focuses on community development using bamboo.

Meanwhile, Filipino-American architect Villanueva is a co-founder of the Kawayan Collective, a facility that sources, processes and sells construction-grade bamboo with the goal of elevating Filipino bamboo as a modern building material to offer better homes to Filipinos.

Multi-award winning Filipino architect Salandanan, widely known for his work with bamboo, continues to champion bamboo in his stories in local and international architecture and design publications.

Reliable and durable construction material

“More than 1,200 species of bamboo are abundant in the Philippines, and technology and engineering continue to optimize its use as a reliable and durable building material,” Lopez explained in a press release.

“Through intensive research and innovation with our network of Base Innovation Center partners, we continue to elevate the use of bamboo and build sustainable homes for the community using our Cement-Bamboo Frame Technology (CBFT)” , Lopez added.

For his part, the base’s president, Maricen Jalandoni, said: “As more and more of our professional builders choose to use bamboo in construction, we are helping to build a circular economy, farmers who harvest and from individuals who process bamboo to builders engaged in construction.

He added, “With our initiatives, we are committed to positively impacting the lives of every family and supporting the community in a sustainable way.”

bamboo defense

Interviewed by BusinessMirror on September 22, Edgardo Manda, Chairman of the Philippine Bamboo Foundation Inc., said that bamboo is becoming popular again.

“If you look at Facebook as a platform for its popularity, you’ll see active discussions about bamboo. Their advocacy, project to spread, even in sculpture. Even the United Architects of the Philippines are getting involved now,” said Manda, whose bamboo advocacy rose to prominence during his tenure as chief executive of the Laguna Lake Development Authority.

Manda has actively promoted the propagation and cultivation of bamboo through various speaking engagements, sharing his knowledge and experience, in various parts of the country.

Growing enthusiasm

Enthusiasm for bamboo, he said, only comes after realizing that bamboo has many uses.

The increase in interest in bamboo in many provinces, such as Mindanao, Manda said, was the result of private initiatives.

“Some are interested in cultivation, others in propagation and others in export products. But these are all private initiatives,” he said.

Unfortunately, Manda said there was a need to support the propagation and cultivation of bamboo like other cash crops.

“What’s happening is ‘symbolic involvement’. What we really need is a national agenda,” he told BusinessMirror in Filipino.

Agricultural product

According to Manda, bamboo is slowly being recognized as an agricultural product.

Although known as a lowly building material, he said the leaves are also popular as a feed for large ruminants.

As food, Filipinos also cook and consume bamboo shoots, called “labong”, like other vegetables.

To make it a popular agricultural product, he said government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should work together to promote bamboo and establish plantations in areas. areas where they are suitable for growth.

Currently, he said, there are only a few areas in the Philippines with large areas planted with bamboo and there are no commercial plantations.

Government support

According to Manda, the government should take the initiative for the Philippines to gain a foothold in the global bamboo market and eventually become one of the major players.

A national bamboo program is also needed to launch a massive campaign and provide the capacity building activities needed to support the industry.

“If you want to be the biggest player in the $60 billion a year global trade, the government should take the lead and concentrate it like other agricultural products like coffee and cocoa,” Manda said.

Tree farms of tomorrow

Indeed, bamboo is the best alternative, not just to construction but to other types of wood, said Gregg Yan, conservationist and founder of the Best Alternatives campaign.

He said bamboo farms could become the tree farms of tomorrow.

“Bamboo is the best alternative to other types of wood because it grows incredibly fast, with some species growing at over a meter a day. Since bamboo is a type of grass, harvesting its shoots will not kill it. This means that a bamboo grove can be harvested sustainably for years,” Yan told BusinessMirror via Messenger on October 5.

He added that the bamboo poles are incredibly strong.

“Under the right conditions, bamboo can be harder than steel, making it an alternative building material.” He said.

Yan said native bamboo groves make great habitats for wildlife, so a bamboo farm can bring back biodiversity, not just profit.

“We don’t need to keep inventing the building materials of the future. Sometimes we just need to look to nature for answers,” he stressed.

Picture credits: Gregg Yan, Philippine Bamboo Foundation Inc. , Philippine Bamboo Foundation, Inc.

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