Bamboo: Sustainable Housing in the Tropics

The Future Belongs to the Tropics

The Mahathir Science Award Foundation (MSAF) together with the Academy of Sciences Malaysia jointly organized its 13th webinar titled “Bamboo: Sustainable Housing in The Tropics” as a lead-up pre-conference event to the International Conference of Tropical Sciences (TropSc 2021) with the theme of “The Future Belongs to The Tropics” in October 2021. World Bamboo Day is celebrated worldwide on 19 September annually to create a greater appreciation and awareness of the potential of the “golden grass” – bamboo.

During her welcoming remarks, Professor Dato’ Seri Dr Mazlan Othman (Chair of TropSc 2021) shed light on the potential of bamboo, a versatile plant that is native to Tropics, and shared the prospects of bamboo as a building material for sustainable and affordable housing. The esteemed speakers were Ahmad Mazlan Othman, Dr, and Ewe Jin Low.

The webinar was started by the moderator, Ewe Jin Low from Better Bamboo Buildings who spotlighted the wonderful crop – bamboo by addressing it as an emerging “green gold”. He then introduced the first panellist, Ir. Ahmad Mazlan Othman from the from Malaysian Bamboo Society.

In relation to his expertise, Ahmad Mazlan shared the importance of addressing bamboo pests such as insects and fungal infection. He also talked about essential preservation approaches such as horizontal soak diffusion and the modified Boucherie method that can enhance bamboo natural durability.

Following that, Ewe Jin emphasized the 5 main design essentials for building with bamboo which are: i) the selection of suitable bamboo, ii) applying preventive designs, iii) realignment with its unique properties, iv) responsible advocacy and lastly, v) adopting innovative approaches with bamboo.

Next on the panel, Dr Andry Widyowijatnoko from Institute Teknologi Bandung (Indonesia) enlightened the audience on his research on innovative plastered bamboo construction including bamboo joints that can serve as a quick response shelter and affordable housing for the local community in Indonesia.

Last but not least, focusing on bamboo standards for affordable housing, Luis Felipe Lopez from Base Bahay Foundation (Philippines) shared his insights on innovative strategies for safe and disaster-resistant housing such as Cement-Bamboo Frame which is useful in disaster-prone areas such as the Philippines.

One of the highlights in this webinar was the panel discussion as the audience were very active and raised common concerns on bamboo housing such as its maintenance, pest-resistance, and disaster resistance. Both Luis and Dr Andry shared their opinions on the combination of mud as plaster materials with bamboo skeletons instead of cement by pointing out the benefits of lower carbon emission released to the environment but also the requirement for higher maintenance .

On the other hand, Ahmad Mazlan expressed his opinion that the cost of bamboo housing is slightly higher in Malaysia compared to conventional house construction, considering the cost for harvesting the materials and skilled labour. Ewe Jin shared his view that bamboo joint design is an important criteria for ensuring that the building can resist disasters such as tyhpoons and earthquakes. Lastly, the panel shared their final message on leveraging the use of bamboo for sustainable and affordable housing in the Tropics.

With over 500 registered participants from all over the world, this webinar is evidence of the growing interest in bamboo as a promising material for sustainable housing.


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