As you may recall in the famous fairy tale, the three little pigs build homes of straw, brick and wooden sticks to avoid having their houses being huffed and puffed and blown down by a big bad wolf. In the end, the pig with the brick house triumphs, but in real life, a new school in the Philippines (where they know quite a bit about buildings being blown down by powerful tropical winds) has done one better by utilizing a flexible, storm resistant material that is also locally grown and rapidly renewable - bamboo. Designed by architect Eleena Jamil of Malaysia as the winning entry in the Millennium Schools competition organized by Illac Diaz's MyShelter Foundation, the structure was recently completed in Camarines Sur, and is proud to call itself the first full bamboo school in the Philippines.
At the moment, the bamboo school is a prototype at the Nato High School in the Bicol Peninsula around the southeastern part of Luzon. Currently, the structure consists of 2 classrooms and a set of restrooms but the goal is to eventually replace all of the learning areas with modular bamboo units once more funding becomes available.
One of the main focuses of the design was to minimize damage caused by the powerful tropical winds that sweep across the eastern part of the archipelago. In Asia, bamboo has long been known as an elastic material and is often chosen over wood or even steel when building in areas where wind is a factor. And while it’s possible that some of the bamboo culms will be overcome by the wind, in most cases, replacing them is much easier than it would be for wood or steel. It also helps immensely that forests of the green plant grow abundantly and rapidly in the wild in close proximity to the school. So if rebuilding is ever necessary, the raw materials are right there in the building’s own backyard.
The plan of the school is on the simple side, which makes sense since the whole point is that the modular classrooms be easy to build and easy to repair. The classroom block is one room deep with a veranda on the side – a basic arrangement that allows for natural cross ventilation, shading and daylighting. Taking into consideration the hot and humid clime of the area, the classrooms are on a raised concrete platform that keeps the floors dry during the wet season. This measure also works to protect the culms from getting wet. The veranda is covered by a roof of metal and a woven local reed called runo. The overhangs have been made extra wide to provide shaded areas for play.