To be the world’s authority on the use of bamboo and other sustainable materials for building construction, and, in the distant future, establish a “bamboo university” that will become the global center of learning on everything that this grass species has to offer.
These two are part of the vision and mission of non-profit Base Bahay Foundation, Inc. As advocates of using bamboo and other renewable resources as construction materials, Base likes to dream big.
To nurture these dreams and bring them closer to reality, Base Bahay relies on a unique component of their organization: a “bamboo laboratory” called the Base Innovation Center (BIC).
“You can’t find a laboratory like this anywhere else in the world—one that is focused on alternative building materials, especially for the social housing sector,” said Luis Felipe López, who runs the BIC as its director, along with engineers and students from partner universities conducting their own research.
BIC officially opened at the start of the year in Manila. It is the research and development arm of Base Bahay, and seeks to continue the improvement of the overall application of the foundation’s Cement Bamboo Frame technology, explained Maricen Jalandoni, Base Bahay president and chair of the board of trustees.
“Through continuous research and innovation, Base Bahay is able to establish itself as the leader in bamboo technology,” Jalandoni says.
National building code for bamboo eyed
A huge chunk of the research that BIC does involves testing bamboo to evaluate its mechanical properties, explained López. Knowing this allows local authorities to have design values for bamboo that permits the creation of a national building code for bamboo. The code could be used by structural engineers to determine the design of the housing structure that will be built using Base Bahay’s Cement Bamboo Frame.
Currently, the foundation partners with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to build sustainable communities with affordable housing across the Philippines. So far, they have established 12 such communities, which house and provide livelihood to around 1,000 families, or more than 5,000 individuals.
“Establishing BIC has put us at an advantage in terms of research, and has opened up a flurry of partnerships,” said Pablo Jorillo, Base Bahay general manager. “BIC allows our partners to see what we can offer them on the different construction methods and design elements we can study for bamboo, such as wind design and seismic design.”
BIC also aims for their research to help incorporate the use of bamboo into the mainstream by establishing it as part of the building code, not just of the Philippines, but of other countries’ as well, said Jorillo.
Base’s research currently touches on a variety of topics, including the characterization of five different bamboo species in the Philippines, which they are working on in close collaboration with the De La Salle University Manila. Base has been working with Coventry University UK in the implementation of the ISO 19624 Bamboo grading, a standard that allows bamboo producers to have a better classification of their poles.
With Mara University Malaysia, Base is also doing the characterization of some Malayan bamboo species.
Another important topic that Base is exploring, together with ETH Zurich, is the Life Cycle Assessment of the Cement Bamboo Frame constructions. This research will provide a better understanding of the carbon embedded in this kind of construction.
Guidebook on bamboo structural design
The BIC, in collaboration with Pittsburgh University, Coventry University, and Arup, is producing a guidebook about bamboo structural design, which will cover load tables for bamboo similar to those commonly used for steel and timber. These tables will reduce the need for repetitive calculation and allow rapid calculation of minimum design requirements.
And the ultimate dream? Become the world’s bamboo university, to ensure continuous and multi-level learning on bamboo and renewable construction materials across the entire infrastructure value chain, from workers to engineers to designers.
“BIC is pushing Base Bahay forward,” vowed Jorillo. “The innovation that we do is a stepping stone for us to do more.”