Completing the first houses

Structural engineers Margarita Murillo Benitez and Valerija Graville are the final Ramboll volunteers to arrive in Lombok as the template houses near completion.

We have arrived to see two almost complete houses. We meet the construction teams and Els and get started straight away.

Ramboll team and local builders

Over the week the team in Salut constructed the annex that will house the kitchen and installed the roof to provide shade, while they installed the first floor and stair. In Sajang where there is a slightly larger construction team, they have been working on the finishing touches; putting in the internal walls and sliding doors. The craftsmanship is clear to see and it is very inspiring to see the enthusiastic students learning skills from the local builders.

We spoke to Els Houttave from the NGO, who told us that the people who have taken the opportunity to build these houses are really happy that they have been involved. She said the students have told her how important they think this project is for Lombok, which has given us even more pride in what we are doing.

During the week we delivered an interactive workshop on how to effectively treat the bamboo. We learned from attendees that the traditional approach involved soaking the bamboo in salt water to replace the sugar in the material. This process is not as effective as chemically treating the bamboo with an organic non-toxic solution, with the appropriate quality control. The chemical treatment works by replacing the sweet starch inside the bamboo veins and replaces it with a solution that not only repels bugs, but also prevents them from physically accessing the bamboo. Correctly applied, it provides a much quicker and more effective protection from termite infestation and rot.

Before we left, we spoke to one of the builders from Salut, his name is Bambang and he shares with us his views of the project, below.

Els also enthused about the use of bamboo because it is truly sustainable and creates a closed loop economy. She explained that one year after planting bamboo, the young sprouts can be eaten, when these are cultivated it creates more room for the remaining bamboo to mature. Once they are mature, they can be used for constructing houses and furniture and at the end of its life it can be composted and used on the bamboo growing fields again.

The bamboo circular economy

Teaching Els, our charity contact, how to read engineering and architectural plans to aid future communication

While it is the end of our time here, the project is continuing under the guidance of Els who will also continue the workshops and support the team who is continuing the construction of four more template houses. When they are complete, there will be a bamboo template house in each of the earthquake affected villages in Lombok that will be used for educational purposes for the community. We’re heading home to perfect the design and complete the step by step guides for others to easily build their own bamboo houses. We also leave with a wealth of knowledge, insight and enthusiasm to promote the great project that could benefit so many others in earthquake prone regions.

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