Interview Patrick Kasingsing
Words and Images BASE Foundation
Editor’s note: What follows is an edited press release from BASE Bahay Foundation; to supplement the release, we have also requested an interview about the project and plans for it moving forward. BASE’s responses accompany the release below.
September 2, 2022. Bukidnon, Mindanao. BASE Bahay Foundation, Inc. and Hineleban Foundation today showcased three model houses at Hineleban’s Tuminugan Farm in Bukidnon which were designed and built using Cement-Bamboo Frame Technology (CBFT) as housing prototypes for future affordable housing projects in the region.
How did the partnership between Hineleban Foundation and BASE begin?
BASE: In 2017, BASE and the Hineleban Foundation started their partnership for the establishment of a bamboo supply and treatment facility in Mindanao. Bukidnon is home to various species of bamboo including bambusa blumeana and dentrocalamus asper. Hineleban supplies the bamboo that BASE uses for its socialized housing projects in the Visayas and Mindanao. In 2020, BASE and the Hineleban Foundation agreed to build three (3) houses inside the Tuminugan Farm as a model for organizations, LGUs, and developers in Mindanao to see and encourage them to build using the Cement Bamboo Frame Technology. These are the first CBFT houses in Mindanao.
Visitors may view the model houses as part of Tuminugan Farm’s walking farm tour. A Mindanao-inspired design graces each of the model homes, built in three sizes: the standard BASE Bahay house with a floor area of 25 sq m; a medium-sized 30.6 sq m version that comes with a porch; and the largest, a 66.44 sq m home complete with a ground floor dedicated to service functions, a second floor for bedrooms, and a loft area that can be used as storage or as an additional sleeping area.
Are there immediate plans to roll out the prototypes to larger/displaced communities within Mindanao?
BASE: Just last August 9, 2022, BASE signed a memorandum of agreement with the BARMM MILG to build a model house in Cotabato using vernacular Mindanaoan Design intended for the housing of rebel returnees in the area as part of the peace agreement. In Panabo, Davao del Norte, BASE is building two-story duplex housing together with the Antonio Floirendo Foundation for the families of banana farmers. BASE is also building model houses in Parang Maguindanao together with a developer to cater to the low-income groups in the area.
By giving the public access to the homes, the Hineleban and BASE Bahay Foundations hope to create more awareness around the use of sustainable materials such as bamboo in future housing initiatives in Mindanao; to showcase the use BASE Bahay’s Cement Bamboo Frame Technology (CBFT) for housing, and to encourage more developers of affordable housing to consider the use of bamboo–a material abundant across Mindanao and BARMM―as sustainable building material.
Explains BASE Bahay General Manager Pablo Jorillo: “As a foundation that provides alternative building technologies, we look to widen our network of partners to build more quality socialized homes for more Filipinos―homes that are comfortable, affordable, disaster-resilient, ecologically friendly, and leave a positive social impact.”
Were cultural groups/indigenous experts and the local community consulted in the application of Mindanaoan cultural touches to the prototypes, to be genuine expressions of the local culture?
BASE: Base and Hineleban Foundation visited local communities in the Lanao and Bukidnon Province and consulted the members and leaders of the groups that will benefit from the house. A lot of functions of the houses were designed based on the families’ local practices. One house expresses the monumental form of the Torogan through a high-pitch, deep eaves roof envelope, carried by six sets of bamboo columns, connoting the traditional “tukod”. A new model house in Cotabato which is an upgrade of the model house in Tuminugan Farm featuring the panolongs was designed together with a Mindanaoan Architect and was approved by the Minister of Interior and Local Government of BARMM.
Aside from the cultural touches, are there any structural or layout plan differences special to the Mindanaoan prototypes? Do these models incorporate first-time innovations implemented by BASE?
BASE: From the consultation with the local community, instead of conventional space planning as seen in contemporary houses, they opted to convert the living room into bedrooms. The community holds high regard for the value of “hospitality”, especially in the context of offering sleeping areas to their guests and extended families.
On structural innovations, BASE incorporates a non-structural wall element to the CBFT (Cement-Bamboo frame Technology) shear wall system at the core, providing a lightweight enclosure to the other rooms. BASE also took advantage of the materiality of nipa and corrugated roof sheets by layering them on top of the other. Non-structural grade bamboo poles that cannot be used as structural elements were made into “pinboo” stairs. Pinboo is an on-site prefabricated bamboo product made from bamboo slats fixed together with adhesive and bamboo pins.
This latest initiative borne of the partnership between the BASE Bahay and Hineleban Foundation supports the Hineleban Foundation’s objective of inspiring more organizations to help provide sustainable livelihood and more permanent housing to Bangsamoro and the Indigenous people in Mindanao.
“Building of permanent houses in the BARMM region is symbolic in an area where conflict has caused people to move constantly. These houses allow communities to ground themselves in their homes and land,” Jorillo adds. “Investing in infrastructure is also a signal of development in this region.”
Aside from hosting the model houses, Hineleban Foundation has been a bamboo supply partner of Base Bahay through its network of local and sustainable farms that produce high-value crops. The foundation harvests and treats bambusa blumeana and dentrocalamus asper which are used for Base’s social housing projects.
Prototypes are a good way to educate the public about your bamboo advocacy; what other initiatives does the organization have to increase public awareness about the durability and structural potential of bamboo as a building material
BASE: Base offers TESDA and PRC-accredited training programs for workers, professionals, and contractors through its Bamboo Academy. It conducts regular face-to-face and online Bamboo Forum Events dubbed as BAMBOOST wherein Base invites local and international experts in the field of Bamboo Architecture and Engineering. It also holds a regular tour of the Base Innovation Center (BIC) for NGOs, Government Agencies, and Universities. The BIC is a research and testing facility for developing alternative technologies for affordable housing. Local and International Universities make their research at the BIC including characterization of bamboo species, testing of connection and systems, and Augmented Reality for Construction.
These are low-cost housing templates that are permanent and durable; would BASE be able to give an estimate of how much it costs to build a typical housing prototype? how many laborers will be involved? what is the typical build timeline for a basic housing prototype?
BASE: A Cement-Bamboo Frame house typically costs around PHP 8,500 – 9,500 per square meter or an average of PHP 225,000 for a 25sqm house depending on the location and wind zone of the area. The house includes the space for a common area, kitchen, bathroom, and a bedroom which can further be divided into two rooms. A typical house can be built by five people in less than a month.
What were some key lessons learned by the BASE team working on the prototypes?
BASE: Working on this project indeed shows the value of participatory design to ensure that every housing project is culture-sensitive and addresses the needs of the people in the community.
To date, BASE Bahay has built more than 1,200 CBFT houses across the Philippines sheltering about 5,000 individuals in 12 communities. BASE works continuously to optimize the use of bamboo in permanent housing. This will also help the communities to avoid the constant rebuilding of houses whenever calamity strikes. The treatment of bamboo poles also enables the construction of low-maintenance houses, as the treatment makes them termite-resistant. CBFT houses also provide good thermal comfort, which can help families save more on electricity consumption.
“We hope that, through our efforts, developers see the value of bamboo–a plant indigenous to our country and grows in abundance here. Despite this, 50 percent of homes are still built with resource-intensive concrete and imported steel,” Jorillo says. “Bamboo’s full potential has yet to be realized: It is long-lasting and renewable, and it is now easier, through our technology, to source, treat, and manufacture.”
For more information on Base Bahay Foundation and ongoing projects, visit base-builds.com. •
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