Because bamboo can be social.
Together with local students and craftsmen we designed and build a pilot for a sustainable model house in Rama, Nicaragua.
View pictures in the image gallery.
Building techniques used in Rama are not adapted to the local environment any more. The materials used create a warm and humid interior climate and are produced with processes that pollute the natural environment. In addition, the local population is dependent on large-scale central systems for building, electricity, clean drinking water and food. These are systems they cannot always rely on, there is a lack of clean drinking water, there are regular power cuts and a lot of food is imported resulting in high prices. Recent research shows Nicaragua has the poorest quality of housing in all of Latin America and a housing deficit of 12%. The most important reasons for these problems on the quantitative side are the high building costs, mainly caused by expensive construction materials. On the qualitative side the lack of infrastructure access (f.e. to clean drinking water) and use of poor materials are the main issues (IDB, 2012). This although El Rama is rich in potential resources, like a yearly rainfall of 3000 mm, 2400 sun hours, various bamboo plantations, trees, fruits and a rich traditional building culture.
We believe that by working together with the resourceful local craftsman and students on building a sustainable and affordable model home with local materials, the people of Rama can become more self-sufficient – independent of non-local systems – and live in a comfortable acclimatised house once again.
1. Share knowledge and skills
– Together with the local university we set up a sustainable design and build course ‘Construcción Sostenible’, to ensure the passing on of the knowledge and expertise to the new generation.
– During the project we worked from building in the centre of El Rama in collaboration with the municipality of El Rama. This building acts as a centre for building capacities. Here we have given courses, hosted workshops, worked on the development of the pre-fab element, given advice about sustainable design, building and water purification. A design has been made for this building for an exposition hall for local culture and art.
– We work only with local craftsmen, like Rafael the carpenter and Manuel the painter. By sharing and learning from each other we ensure the knowledge transfer to the people who will keep on building sustainable homes in Rama.
– We ensure the continuity of sustainable construction methods by developing pre-fab bamboo elements, that together with a business model will help local entrepreneurs to start their own sustainable construction company.
2. Use local resources
– Local relevance means local resources; We use local materials as much as possible, which in Rama’s case means the locally grown bamboo. It grows way more quickly then conventional construction wood and can absorb big amounts of CO2 which it converts into oxygen.
– Local resources also mean local people, skills and knowledge. Next to working with local people, we have looked at the local building culture. The Rama Key Indians for instance have a long tradition of building in the region. Their building techniques possess a lot of wisdom for building in the local climate and environment.
3. Create local systems
– Developing and introducing a building method that uses bamboo. A method that can practiced completely locally, from production, treatment to making bamboo pre fab elements that can be used in local construction.
– We create decentralized, low tech, natural water purification and storage systems integrated into the housing that can provide clean drinking water for its inhabitants.
– By using dry toilets and natural waste water treatment, there is no need for a connection with a sewage grid. Excrement can be used as fertilizer after one year.
4. Make it environmentally prospering
– By using materials that are produced in such a way that they don’t put a strain on the local environment.
– Green roofs provide a place for plants. In turn the plants filter CO2 out of the air to create oxygen and green roofs can add to the bio diversity of the place. These green roofs have been experimented with. Further research is needed for an economical viable and practical solution in El Rama.
– By using compost toilets to re-fertilize for example fruit trees.
– Natural grey water purification ensures the water that leaves the house is cleaned.
5. Dare to play, dare to discover
In a project like this a measure of flexibility is required. Despite the certainty of the found opportunities and our believe in these solutions, we bear in mind the risks and be open for chances and change.
Together with local students and craftsmen we have designed and build a pilot for a sustainable model house in Rama, Nicaragua on the terrain of the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU) in the centre of El Rama. This pilot house acts as a library for the students; a place where they can learn. We started in the abandoned building in the city centre and slowly revitalized this building, eventually turning it into an exposition space for local culture and arts. Here we have given courses, organized workshops and have given people architectural, sustainable and water advice.
For more information please have a look at the updates, project plan and project report, found here.
THE BAMBÚ SOCIAL 1.0 TEAM