“Housing Now” is a response to the urgent need for suitable emergency housing in Myanmar. Nationwide, more than 1.8 million people are currently displaced as a result of the country’s military coup on 1st February 2021, the ensuing civil war, insecurity, and climate change. As a consequence, the demand for housing in Myanmar is extremely high, while supply is very low. To help address this, Blue Temple, an architectural design studio based in Myanmar, is developing the large-scale production of prefabricated, low-cost bamboo housing units, inspired by vernacular architecture.
Blue Temple works diligently on projects that seek social and environmental change. The studio has been researching and prototyping designs for bamboo houses and community buildings over the past three years. “Amongst all existing bamboo species accessible on the local market, tiny bamboo represents an untapped and abundant resource that is extremely cheap,” explains the studio. “By utilizing this resource to build houses, we are able to reduce the price of a single unit to that of a smartphone.”
Myanmar has more than 350 species of bamboo, but just seven are commonly used in construction owing to their load-bearing capacities. “Smaller diameter bamboo has a high bending capacity that allows for more complex designs. The bundling together of several thin ‘non-structural’ bamboo poles can create a building component that is more resilient to damage compared to a structure made from single large-diameter bamboo poles. The structure’s integrity can therefore be strengthened by this bundling method” (Low, 2022).
Blue Temple utilized advanced computational design tools such as "2D Topology Optimization" to generate an optimized bamboo structure. “We interpreted the output of the software, extracting the iso-curves from the stress pattern to 3D-model the small bamboo of the structural frame,” explains the studio. “This design process allows us to compute the bundling of small bamboo into a structurally performing structure [and] radically lowers the price of the structural frame.” Various strapping techniques were tested to tie the bamboo together: a steel strap was considered the most suitable method. Moreover, Blue Temple developed a number of real-world prototypes in order to achieve a scalable prefabricated frame.
The frames of the bamboo houses are prefabricated in a dedicated production hub. “The construction system is made out of interlocking small-diameter bundled bamboo structural frames,” says Blue Temple. These structural frames are delivered to various localities, where they are assembled. The remaining parts of the house — the walls, floor, and roof — are then constructed. The work is carried out in cooperation with the local community — Blue Temple employs and trains people to build their own homes. “This allows us to create a network of a deployable task force made of trained workers who come from vulnerable communities,” says the studio. “This long-term collaborative approach creates new job opportunities for them so they can provide for their family.”
Blue Temple is collaborating with a number of NGOs and development agencies in order to scale up the building of affordable bamboo houses.
Low, E.J. (2022) Blue Temple - a design for affordable bamboo housing, Better Bamboo Buildings. Available at: https://www.betterbamboobuildings.com/home/blue-temple-design-for-low-cost-bamboo-housing (Accessed: 13 June 2023).