Recently translated into English, INBAR’s report on Ecuador’s bamboo structures provides important lessons on how to improve the nation’s stock of earthquake-resilient housing.
The report, which can be accessed here, describes the potential for bamboo to be used more widely in Ecuador (and in other countries) to build low-cost housing. It was written in the aftermath of the 7.8Mw quake that struck Ecuador’s northern coast in April 2016, which destroyed around 35,000 homes and killed hundreds of people. According to the report authors, “the tragedy provided several lessons on building systems and the importance of establishing conditions that reduce the vulnerability of people living in areas of seismic activity.”
In Ecuador bamboo is an abundant material that has traditionally been used over the centuries as a material for sustainable, low-cost housing in the coastal regions. Bamboo is largely recognised as a good form of earthquake resistant housing, as has been observed after several earthquakes in Costa Rica (1991) and Colombia (1999).
Topics covered include the high tolerance of bamboo to earthquake loads, how homes can be built from bamboo to make them earthquake-resistant, and how to ensure that homes built from bamboo have lasting durability. The report also covers the availability of bamboo supplies and how these might be improved.
Key facts from the report include:
- Ecuador has over 15,000 hectares of bamboo, and 600,000 people are directly involved in the bamboo sector.
- Recent government approval for bamboo as a viable construction material has opened up a huge potential market for bamboo housing, and the possibility of developing better building practices using bamboo.
- Several deficiencies can compromise the resilience of bamboo structures. These include poorly built structures, the use of untreated or badly maintained bamboo, rot or insects. However…
- Keeping structures light and designing them in a specific way will help create buildings “that can withstand earthquake and wind loads.”
- Two strategies are needed to overcome the limited availability of dry treated bamboo in Ecuador. The first is an increase in the number of preserving centres, which can process bamboo so it is suitable for construction, would overcome this bottleneck. In addition, it is necessary to encourage the technical management of existing bamboo groves, along with a forestation plan which increases the number of hectares through a sustainable harvesting approach.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- Encourage good practices: make the most of Ecuador’s historic tradition of bamboo construction.
- Formalise construction: this can “improve the structural safety of housing and prolong its useful life, thus avoiding waste of resources (material and financial).”
- Raise awareness of the need for maintenance: a hugely important requirement for long-lasting bamboo structures, but one that “unfortunately… is underestimated.”
- Theoretical and practical training for skilled labour: creating a group of skilled workers who are familiar with bamboo and know how to use it correctly.
- Improving building regulations
- Ensuring the use of quality materials
The report can be accessed here. It can be cited as:
van Drunen N.; Cangás A; Rojas S.; Kaminsky S. 2016. Post-earthquake report on bamboo structures and recommendations for reconstruction with bamboo on the Ecuadorian coast [McInally J., Trans]. INBAR: Quito, Ecuador.