By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter
An alternative building technologies research hub is developing a structural code for bamboo as a building material, to be included in Philippine laws by next year.
Inaugurated in 2021, BASE Innovation Center (BIC), the socialized housing group Base Bahay Foundation, Inc., leads the country’s research-and-development efforts on bamboo, seen as an ideal yet underrated building material for sustainable homes. It partners with local and international universities to conduct its studies.
“A key part of our commitment to promoting sustainable housing technologies is constant innovation. Our vision is to be the global reference for bamboo and sustainable construction in order to help countries find alternative construction methods,” said Luis Felipe Lopez Munoz, Base Bahay’s head of technology, at a media briefing on Oct. 4.
Bamboo is considered an ideal material because it grows fast and is freely available in the Philippines, lessening building costs, he added during a tour of the research center on Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City.
According to Mr. Lopez, cement-bamboo frame technology (CBFT), which has been certified by the National Housing Authority’s Accreditation of Innovative Technologies for Housing (AITECH), is also disaster-resilient.
“This technology uses load-bearing bamboo with metal connections and mortar cement plaster. It’s tested to ensure a durable and reliable load transfer and design that resists earthquakes, typhoons, fires, and insect infestation,” he said.
BIC tests bamboo materials and building techniques with a universal testing machine, a bamboo wall panel reaction frame, fabrication tables, and a model house. It also uses augmented reality to adopt and scale technology for construction.
Data from BIC’s research will help shape local structural codes for bamboo, aligned with the Philippine National Standard (PNS) 22157 that informs testing procedures for obtained bamboo culms, and the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 22156 that aims to institutionalize the use of bamboo in structural design.
Pablo A. Jorillo, Base Bahay general manager, said that the use of bamboo for affordable housing can eventually influence the construction industry at large.
“Why bamboo? Because about 75% of our timber is already imported. In the global south, you can see the abundance of bamboo. We have this material and we have a housing problem, so it fits to use one to solve the other,” he said.
Base Bahay Foundation has built over 1,500 homes all over the country, in partnership with groups like Hilti Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and 4P for People. Meanwhile, BIC has trained over 300 civil engineers and architects in the use of bamboo.
The foundation’s target is to build 10,000 cement bamboo houses by 2024, in response to the growing need for socialized homes in disaster-prone areas.