Group to Develop Modular Bamboo Housing

Bamboo can be used to build housing, furniture, instruments, and much more.

A Beijing-based group, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), hopes to develop modular bamboo housing as part of its efforts to encourage greater use of the renewable plant resource. Following a recent “International Design Workshop on Modular Bamboo Housing,” held August 28–30, the group issued a call for prototype designs for the shelters, using the recommendations of the 35 workshop participants. The overall goal of the project is to develop panel-based modular houses for use as schools, offices, emergency shelters, and homes for poor rural families and slum dwellers. 

INBAR, which works to promote the social, economic, and environmental benefits of bamboo and rattan, notes that the fast-growing plants have many advantages over timber. While a 60-foot (18.3 meter) wood tree can take 60 years to replace, a 60-foot bamboo plant takes only 59 days to replace. Rattan, a spiny vine-like palm that can grow to over 600 feet (185 meters), thrives in healthy as well as degraded forests and on marginal soil, and its stems can be harvested without harm to the trees it climbs on.

The two plants are readily available in many of the world’s tropical and sub-tropical regions, where they are typically harvested by women and children. They have a wide range of uses, including for housing, furniture, baskets, instruments, and paper. Worldwide, more than a billion people live in bamboo houses, and the global trade in bamboo and rattan is estimated at US $5 billion a year, according to INBAR.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.