In 2018, a series of earthquakes struck the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing 560 people. The area was reduced to rubble and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Near the epicenter, most buildings were destroyed, in part because of poor concrete construction. A new project in the area aims to help villages rebuild with earthquake-resistant houses made of local bamboo.
The benefit of bamboo is that it’s a strong, lightweight material that can bend without breaking when an earthquake hits. Yes, a house made from good bamboo will wobble and shake during an earthquake, but that just means the energy of the quake is being dissipated and absorbed without destroying the structure of the house.
After the last big earthquake in Lombok, a design firm in London called Ramboll has been designing strong bamboo houses in Lombok using new-age technology. Basically, the firm makes 3D scans of bamboo to help model each house’s performance. Unlike a steel beam, a bamboo pole doesn’t come in a uniform size, but by scanning the material, the engineers were able to better understand how the design would perform.
Once the scans are done, the firm creates a construction manual that anyone will be able to use. Think of it like the step-by-step building guide that comes with an Ikea shelf.