‘Four-hour’ bamboo house wins top prize

A 23-year-old designer has won a top £50,000 ($64,385) prize after creating a low-cost bamboo housing unit to address the Philippines’ slum crisis.

Earl Patrick Forlales’ design takes just four hours to construct, and at £50 per sq metre it’s also affordable.

He told the BBC World Service: “It’s a functional home on its own, but it’s more than just a house.

“It’s designed to turn community waste into energy and other valuable resources.”

Mr Forlales, who comes from Manila and studied material science engineering, will use the prize money from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Cities for our Future competition to start work on his “CUBO” communal housing units next year.

Manila has a population of 12 million people, four million of whom live in impoverished slums. Some 2.5 million more workers are expected to arrive over the next three years – placing the fast-growing city under housing strain.

Mr Forlales’ modular CUBO homes will be used to house the newcomers, before being extended to the slums at large.

The young designer was inspired by his grandparent’s rural bamboo house – though his bamboo will be treated and laminated for a 10-times-longer lifecycle.

The material is an eco-friendly choice, as it releases 35% more oxygen than trees and can be harvested annually without causing soil degradation.

The CUBO homes also have slanted roofs to catch rainwater, and stilts to keep out floodwater.

Mr Forlales has picked out a plot of land in Manila for the project’s first homes, and hopes his design can help other crowded cities too. In theory, it’s viable anywhere that bamboo grows – which includes South-East Asia, and parts of Africa and Latin America.

He plans to raise funds for the project by selling waste plastic to factories.

“CUBO started as nothing more than an idea, conceived while spending time at my grandparent’s house – it is incredible to think that it now will become a reality,” Mr Forlales said.

“I would like to thank RICS for the opportunity to develop the idea, and look forward to working with them to put this money to good use in Manila, and then hopefully elsewhere around the world.”

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