Innovation for Low-Rise Construction in the Urban Tropics: Utilization of Structural Bamboo for Cost-Efficient Housing
Corinna Elaine Salzer
Clara Camarasa, International Energy Agency (IEA)
This paper deals with a cost-efficient construction technology using load-bearing bamboo for urban low-rise housing in tropical Asia-Pacific. The potential of the technology to be applied a larger scale is discussed in the example of the Philippines as a pilot country for its application. The assessment of alternative construction methods such as this one is motivated by a tremendous need for more affordable, sustainable, and resilient housing around the globe. The urban poor, being the most underserved group in need of housing, often cannot afford conventional building technologies offered by the formal industry. Using locally available bamboo as a structural component within the introduced standardized and quality-controlled construction method is an entry point to provide performing and safe housing at a lower cost. The paper highlights, however, that cost-efficiency and technical performance are not the only requirements for innovations to succeed in a market, especially due to the complex challenge of urban poor housing. Through learnings from the construction of 50 houses in the Philippines and interviews with various stakeholders along the value chain of the technology, barriers and opportunities for a scale-up are retrieved. For this paper, a conflated non-exhaustive overview of the identified aspects is documented. It was found that both barriers and opportunities directly linked to this technology are closely tied to a complex local value chain which ranges from the upstream supply of raw material to downstream customer acceptance. The pilot application has shown further, that participatory product development reduces the acceptance barrier significantly by directly addressing the needs of low-income customers. Material and skills availability, enabling policies and approval by legal entities as well as sustainability in supply of the organic raw material play important roles too. This complex set of interlinked aspects needs to be addressed according to targets in implementation-pace, and -scale as well as its intended social value creation. While multi-stakeholder participation is required for a successful up-scaling, a facilitating social enterprise, providing knowledge and services around the technology, can guide through the up-scaling.