Important milestone for Lombok sustainable bamboo housing

The creation of sustainable housing for Lombok moves up a gear as the design workshop is visited by Indonesian NGO leader Els Houttave.

With outline designs created it was time to check that the project was set to deliver an optimal solution for Lombok, one that could be understood and replicated on the island. And for this we needed local insights.

Joining us for workshops at our London office was Els Houttave, founder of Grenzeloos Milieu, the charity we are collaborating with. She met up with the 17 strong Ramboll team and inspired everyone with the charity’s history, its vision and its work to date.

Els first arrived in Lombok some 10 years ago. She witnessed how globalisation crept into the island inhabitant’s lifestyle, causing the deterioration of the natural environment and the people’s own health and that is when she founded the charity. Since then, Els spends half a year, every year in Lombok to raise awareness of environmental issues. She has learned the local language and culture and has become one more member of the community. She says: “I have two families, one in Europe and the other in Indonesia. The locals in Lombok call me Tanta Els, which means ‘Auntie’ Els”.

The London workshops

The purpose of the workshops was to apply cultural and practical insights from Lombok to the designs. Often, charity projects fail because they focus too much on technical aspects and do not embrace a holistic approach. For the project to be successful, you need the end users to adopt and like the design in its entirety, from aesthetics to cost, and to do that, you truly need to understand the situation on the ground. In particular:

  • The facts and situation before and after the 2018 August earthquakes, and how this led to a change in the NGO’s priorities, from environmental awareness focus to providing a sustainable housing solution.
  • The culture and customs of rural Lombok.
  • How to adapt the teaching workshops to suit the local culture, with an emphasis on steering participants to reach their own conclusions through practical engagement, ahead of teaching hard facts
  • Aspects of the design that could be tailored for Indonesia. For example, Indonesians are on average 15cm shorter than their UK counterparts, meaning floor heights could be reduced.

At the conclusion of the workshop Els remarked, “Lombok is an island with a significant influx of tourists. People in Lombok are often promised help from well-intentioned but rather impulsive tourists, who go home after their vacation and forget about the whole problem. Locals have been let down too many times, and now is the time to make a real difference and change this. I am very grateful to the Ramboll team, who have demonstrated great enthusiasm and commitment to deliver this project”

Team member​ Valerija Greville commented “It was inspirational to have Els over here to share her knowledge and understanding with the rest of the team. We were already super-committed but this highlights the difference our engineering skills can make to the community. We now have the understanding to finalise our designs, and I’m confident our design for sustainable and replicable houses will be a success.”

Xavier Echegaray Jaile

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