Part 2: Ingenious & indigenous: innovative school design made of bamboo

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(Part 1 of this two-part article appeared on Thursday March 27)

Each S3H structure allows multiple functions beyond their primary use to nurture and educate. It acts as a resilient and comfortable micro community with provisions for rainwater collection, vegetative walls as a community food source, solar roofs as an source for renewable energy, separate toilets for privacy and cleanliness, with ramps and wide doorways for less mobile persons. Each classroom is provided with flexible furniture that can double as partitions for privacy between families.

As an added disaster-proof measure, each classroom has an attic space, which can also be used as a storage area for relief goods or refuge space.

The proposed project focuses on how versatile our schools can be, especially in times of calamities. The design principle behind the project aims to combine sustainability and durability through the various uses of indigenous materials and other green design features. With building materials accounting for nearly 60-65% of the cost of house construction, using bamboo not only creates more awareness of the vast uses and possibilities that come with its use, but is also a testament to the flexibility of bamboo as an emerging integral component of sustainable, cost-effective architecture.


With bamboo as the main component for the school design, each classroom measures 63 square meters. With the recommended standard of 3.5 square meters per person, in times of calamities, each classroom can accommodate 18 people (4-5 families) comfortably. The A-frame trusses made of engineered bamboo support the roof and also act as the columns. These are connected directly to concrete reinforcements at the base. This design makes it responsive to lateral loads and high speed wind disturbances up to 250 km/hr. The whole classroom is raised on concrete stilts as an adaptive measure against flooding, and a clerestory (or high-level opening) is integrated into the design to provide passive cooling to the classroom.

Rainwater from the sloping roof is stored in a water collection tank below the classrooms, which can be used by the evacuees when water is not available.

Design challenges and solutions
One design challenge was imminent though: In order for the bamboo school design to be truly sustainable, each community that will be building these schools must have its own bamboo nursery farm so that sustainability is maintained and the transportation cost of importing bamboo from other parts of the region is.

The nursery will not just act as a resource material, but can provide the communities new livelihood opportunities with the wide range of composite products that can be made from bamboo.

As places of learning, schools are integral models by physically demonstrating to its students and the wider school community the good practice of sustainable building and its impact on the planet.

To instill the concept of environmental sustainability to the future generation, students should participate in planting and the maintenance of the vegetative walls surrounding each S3H structure.

To inculcate the spirit of bayanihan (communal unity), each S3H will employ the participation of the community.

To ensure institutional memory for the modular construction and building system, a construction manual will be provided for workers.

During the first phase of the construction, concrete will be used in constructing the footing, column, beam slab, and stairs because concrete can be recycled and reused as fill for roads and pavers. On the second phase of the construction, bamboo will be used as the main component of the truss because it is lightweight and easy to install, while hurricane straps/cyclone wraps are used as an additional reinforcement as well as steel to add strength to join connectors.

Instead of concrete hollow block (CHB) walls, an alternative interior partition system using straw bale is also proposed to soundproof classroom noise, while jalousie glass windows will be protected with wooden storm shutters.

The storm shutter louvers will envelope the building fenestrations, allowing for a passive wind direction.

It also lessens wind drag as wind exits immediately as it penetrates the building, as well as protect the windows from breaking during storm. Depending on the budget allocated for each school, the design also allows provision for installing solar panels and wind turbines as an alternative source of energy and reduce power dependence.

Vegetable gardens can be planted hanging near the base of the sloping roofs as well as the classroom walls to provide a food source for the evacuees.

Many international and international companies like Lafarge France, TS Global, PEG, Freyssinet, and local organizations like Sagip Kapamilya have expressed their interest to help build the prototype for the ravaged communities in Leyte and Samar.

Evacuation of people during an untoward event or a disaster is one of the basic problems of human society, thus we must adopt a practical and preventive approach to anticipate future disasters and hazardous events.

Much like how our society gives prime importance to our nation’s education system, so should we to providing safe, resilient, and equipped emergency evacuation centers for our calamity-stricken evacuees. Let our designs be proactive, not reactive.

The paradigm shift from “disaster management” to what the World Economic Forum calls “disaster governance” is needed, so in order to “Build Back Better,” we must not only rely on political will, but on sustainable cost-effective building materials that can be easily replicated as well.

As an important community resource and center for learning, our schools should be equipped with the right facilities to fully serve their purpose as evacuation areas during disasters.

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1 Comment

  1. It is important that the attic space is ventilated properly with lower and upper roof venting using calculations established in the International Building Code.
    Also equally important is that the storm shutters shall not just be “invented” per se but also be tested as to how it will perform when it is subjected to impact loads, not only from winds, but also from wind-borne debris. I would not just recommend a bamboo shutter, but a more durable material such as aluminum shutters (bahama shutter). Another option will be to install “impact rated” window assembly. These windows should be constructed with tempered glass for safety purposes. We already experienced how those annealed glass and how it became hazardous when it breaks causing injuries to occupants.