In 2018 when Lombok was struck by several earthquakes, some measuring up to magnitude 7, local communities around the seismic region were greatly affected. After the series of earthquakes settled, there were over 500 people dead, 445,000 people homeless and 129,000 homes damaged.

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a bamboo house on bamboo stilts that are cross braced and attached to what appears to be a concrete foundation. surrounding the house are green trees and two people, one who is looking to the left and another who is touching one of the bamboo stilts

Concerned that the quality of the area’s buildings was partially to blame, Els Houttave, founder of the Lombok-based charity Grenzeloos Milieu, knew that something had to be done to ensure this type of devastation never happened again. She teamed up with Ramboll bridge engineer Xavier Echegaray and structural engineer Marcin Dawydzik to find a solution that was both sustainable and resilient.

two images. to the left, an image from inside the bamboo house, looking down a bamboo staircase. to the right, a bamboo doorway looking into a room where a person in a bright yellow shirt stands.

When Dawydzik traveled to Lombok, he discovered the problem was in the building techniques and materials: “Villages were flattened with bricks and rubble scattered all around, in many cases the building foundations were all that remained. This was not an unusually powerful earthquake for the region, but lack of reinforcement in the buildings meant the damage, and consequential loss of life, was far greater than it should have been. What I found even more disturbing was that communities had already started rebuilding with the same absence of structural integrity that had existed in the destroyed buildings!”  

the interior of a bamboo house with a window covering open to look outside at trees

As it turns out, the building solution was closer than expected. The partially-destroyed villages were surrounded by bamboo forests, a time-honored building material that is lightweight, strong, affordable, sustainable and reaches full maturity in about five years.

a birds-eye view of a village, with a community of houses to the right and a surrounding forest to the left

Working hand-in-hand with the locals, Ramboll has now built three prototype earthquake-proof “template houses” made almost entirely out of locally-sourced bamboo. The homes are raised on cross-braced columns with a central staircase leading to the living area and space for two bedrooms. The walls are finished with bamboo woven sheets or canes and the roofing is made from recycled Tetra Pak carton packaging. 

a birds-eye view of a village with a road running through it and trees surrounding the area

Going even further, the project headed by Grenzeloos Milieu and University College London will provide locals with a free blueprint on how to construct affordable earthquake-proof homes without complicated construction knowledge necessary. Additionally, Grenzeloos Milieu is growing more bamboo forests and teaching communities how to harvest the trees for food and construction. Ramboll volunteers on the ground in Lombok will teach the process hands-on while ensuring safety and efficiency.

+ Ramboll

Via Dezeen

Images via Ramboll