Bamboo and housing for the urban poor
Bamboo Houses to the Rescue
Beyond increasing per capita income — the goal of many, if not all, development projects — what can be done to provide better infrastructure and reduce the death toll of natural disasters in developing nations? According to a set of specialized architects and builders, one answer involves permanent bamboo housing. They argue that bamboo cultivation and construction can protect people in disaster-prone areas. History suggests they may be correct.
A 7.5 earthquake in Limón, Costa Rica, in April 1991 destroyed homes built with concrete and rebar, but all 20 of the more-flexible bamboo houses at the earthquake’s epicenter remained standing. When three typhoons swept into the Cook Islands in 2005, one producing winds of 173 mph, they devoured everything in their path — everything, that is, except a group of bamboo houses on the beach.
But in the age of global warming, bamboo has a benefit beyond construction: Both young and mature bamboo plantations capture more carbon than similar stands of trees. In a 2007 paper titled “Sub-optimal Equilibriums in the Carbon Forestry Game: Why Bamboo Should Win and Why It Will Not,” energy specialist Raya Kühne said, “A non-tree species — bamboo — may be one of the species most well-suited to the Clean Development Mechanism’s goals of maximizing carbon revenues and promoting sustainable development.”