Bamboo heart- Part 1

I have a dream of meditating on the second floor of a bamboo house, waltzing down irregular bamboo stairs, the sun filtering through an open window at the witching hour.

This week Pancho and I have been following this bamboo dream house by meeting with my friend and former colleague Engr. Eric Raymundo.

In 2014, I began to explore the potentials of bamboo while working in Bantayan Island where bamboo proliferates along the roadside.  After typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the wind had visibly ripped down most of the flora.  Bamboo was first to recover.  It is resilient, loves water and can handle periods of dry spell.  It matures in 3-4 years.  It is a versatile material, useful as poles for construction, furniture and crafts, as a textile, as pulp and paper, and for yummy bamboo shoots!

In essence, bamboo is a wood replacement and more!  And given the Philippines’ unfortunate forest predicament (see figure 1), bamboo is the wood of the future.  As a grass, it is rapidly renewing!

However, there are currently some major roadblocks to fully utilizing this amazing grass.  As Eric explained, kawayan tinik, our abundant local species, is commonly regarded as an inferior material due to its size and the thorns that surround the pole.

Yes our kawayan tinik is slimmer than the more famous varieties like giant bamboo, but no less strong, according to Eric.

He believes that if properly harvested and preserved, our local bamboo could be used as a primary building material for residential construction. Concrete necessitates quarrying, a wasteful process with consequences for human health, agriculture, tourism and disaster management.  In addition, concrete houses are too hot for our tropical environment, and adding air conditioning means more power generation required.

As Pancho explained, bamboo design and construction is not even in the Philippine architecture curriculum!  While bamboo construction is visible across the country- it is considered ‘impermanent’ construction.

Under the Philippine building code, architects are liable for their design for 15 years, thus the material must not have defects within this time period.  Bamboo commonly last only 1-4 years in the Philippines, before needing to be replaced.  Therefore, it is not officially regarded as a construction material despite the obvious market preference for bamboo because of its affordability!

In part 2- we’ll go into some ideas for sustainable bamboo harvesting and preservation that might just extend the life of a bamboo pole!


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