This modular bamboo house takes only 4 hours to build – and is 8 times cheaper than a house in South Africa

A new bamboo housing project for the new worker population in Manila also has potential for Africa’s housing problems.

Earl Patrick Forlales, from Manila, has won the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Cities for our Future competition with an idea that could help solve the city of Manila’s slum housing crisis.

Forlales has designed a new type of modular bamboo housing that will be used for workers in the short term, before being applied to the rest of the city’s slum community.

The housing is both affordable at just £60 per square metre (R1,046) and fast to build – four hours per unit).

Forlales chose to use bamboo for CUBO’s construction, inspired by his grandparent’s rural bamboo house and its abundance in the region. It is also environmentally friendly, with waste used as a resource – converted into, among other things, biochar – a charcoal-like substance produced from plant matter and which has a range of uses.

The material is both treated and laminated, meaning that its lifecycle is 10 times as long as normal bamboo.

The key benefits of CUBO are:

  • Quick and affordable: Because of the simple modular design and cheap materials, CUBO houses can be manufactured in a week, constructed in only four hours and at a cost of only £60 per square metre
  • Innovative design: Clever elements include a tilted roof that captures rainwater and reduces heat gain, and elevated stilts that prevent floodwaters from entering the home.
  • A sustainable material: Bamboo is an ideal material because it releases 35% more oxygen than trees and can be grown on poor quality land and harvested annually without leading to soil degradation.
  • More than just a housing project: Forlales has designed a business plan that will provide local people with not just housing, but new skills, jobs and community space. He also proposes raising money for the project by selling waste plastic to factories.
  • A scalable solution: The solution can be applied to any city where bamboo can be grown, including most of Southeast Asia and parts of Africa and Latin America.

Forlales will now work with RICS experts and industry professionals to begin work on the project next year.

According to Absa, the average building cost per square meter in South Africa, in the three categories of new housing in 2018:

  • Houses of <80m²: R5,482 – up by 9.9% y/y
  • Houses of ≥80m²: R7,344 – up by 3.1% y/y
  • Flats and townhouses: R7,948 – down by 0.8% y/y

Modular design

Complex build


Read: South Africans are buying property in Mauritius – here’s how much you can expect to pay

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