skip to primary navigationskip to content

Natural Materials and Structures Team Awarded Prize in International Competition

last modified Sep 24, 2014 02:13 PM

IMG_36003 (2).jpg

Natural Materials and Structures Team Awarded Prize in International Competition

The international conference on Vernacular Heritage, Sustainability and Earthen Architecture hosted the 'Versus: Lessons from vernacular heritage for sustainable architecture' competition this summer. An interdisciplinary team comprised of ,  and Daniel Jimenez, were awarded Third Prize in the competition for their design and construction of a bamboo house.

The project, called 'Bahay Kawayan: A Post-disaster House for the Philippines', was created as a transitional house for the communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 in the Philippines. The low-cost structure was based on the traditional Filipino house, the Bahay Kubo, and was designed to explore a resilient solution for imminent hazards.

The project has three main innovations: construction without nails or screws, built to resist strong winds and earthquakes, and has a modular design with flexibility for extensions.

The connections utilised the traditional building method of lashing bamboo, which avoids the use of nails and screws in order to prevent the bamboo from splitting. This traditional knowledge has been adapted to available materials such as rattan, rope and fishing line. The latter is a versatile material which is widely used in the Philippines and was selected as the connection material for the project. The design and the geometry were governed by the construction method, which in the case of bamboo should have each a connection in three dimensions instead of in-plane. The connections also allow for single elements of the house to be replaced without affecting the structure.

The overall structure is based on a system that connects the roof to the foundation through diagonal bracings. These connections aim to reduce uplift, a main concern during typhoons and storms. Additionally, bracing was used in multiple planes to create a system of triangulations to reduce deformation of the structure due to events such as an earthquake.

Finally, the structure of the house is based on a frame system instead of load bearing walls, thus allowing for flexibility in the positioning of doors and windows. Thus openings can be placed according to the orientation of the house and surrounding conditions. The modular design also considers the possibility of expansion and adaptation to families’ needs without compromising the integrity of the structural system.

A prototype was constructed in the courtyard of the Department of Architecture in Cambridge in July-August 2014 to test the feasibility of construction, the structural performance of the connections, and the spatial qualities of the design. Based on lessons learned during construction and feedback from NGO collaborators the design will be refined for use in future disaster relief efforts.

Ana Gatóo is the Research Coordinator of the EcoHouse Initiative

Elizabeth Wagemann is a PhD student in Architecture

Daniel Jiménez is an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development 

This project is part of the EcoHouse Initiative funded by Anglo American.

For more information about the project

For more information about the group

The team would like to acknowledge Michael Ramage, Allan McRobie, Patrick Fleming and Bhavna Sharma for their reviews about the structural system, and special thanks to Mark Breeze for participating in the initial stages of the design.