Volunteers from Ramboll have travelled to Lombok to commence the construction of low-cost, sustainable bamboo housing for the earthquake-prone Indonesian island, in partnership with University College London (UCL) and a local NGO.


Lombok-based charity Grenzeloos Milieu called upon Ramboll’s experts to help them develop a sustainable and resilient solution to the housing issues faced by the island following multiple earthquakes. Over the next two months volunteers will guide and oversee the construction of three template houses across three villages. This comes after a year of workshops, research and design developed by Ramboll’s engineers.


In 2018, several earthquakes measuring up to 7 on the Richter scale struck the island of Lombok, Indonesia, leaving over 500 dead, 129,000 houses damaged and 445,000 homeless. The most affected were the rural areas, where government help often does not reach.


Marcin Dawydzik, structural engineer at Ramboll and the project lead, visited the island after the earthquakes and developed the architectural design together with the local community, explained the origin of the project: “In Indonesia I saw entire villages flattened by the earthquake, and in many cases all that remained were the building foundations. The lack of reinforcement in the buildings meant the damage, and consequential loss of life, was far greater than it should have been. I believe that through developing a structurally safe and sustainable housing design, that can easily be replicated by locals, we will support the people of Lombok to become better prepared for future earthquakes, as well as to utilise the brilliant natural resources of the island.”


Ramboll added value by applying the latest digital design capabilities to produce safe, affordable and sustainable bamboo building templates that can be adopted across the island and meet the cultural and physical needs of local villagers. However, as a result of the lack of design codes for safe bamboo housing, Ramboll and UCL tested the bamboo properties to validate their research and ensure that the bamboo being sourced had similar properties to those found in academic publications. This enabled Ramboll to design the house and size the bamboo elements. A team from UCL will visit Indonesia during the construction of the template houses to 3D scan every bamboo piece, barcode them and track their final position. This will allow Ramboll to back-analyse the houses, understand the material better and refine the design in the future.


Dr Rodolfo Lorenzo, Lecturer, UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering commented, “New design and fabrication workflows for structural bamboo based on advanced digital technologies can push forward the use of this sustainable building material to support the development of resilient infrastructure in the region. The progressive engineering approach of Ramboll and the invaluable support from Grenzeloos Milieu have provided the perfect backdrop to translate academic research into practical activities and knowledge for the benefit of local communities in Indonesia.”


Throughout the process the team has placed great emphasis on empowering local communities through education and hands-on experience. For the construction phase the team has employed local skilled and unskilled labour to encourage shared learning and to bring the community together. The completed houses will serve as template homes and community centres, where the local charity will host construction workshops developed by Ramboll, teaching local communities about the principles of structural safety and embedding the required technical expertise for constructing further bamboo houses across the island. All of this will be supported by a step-by-step manual.


Els Houttave, founder of Grenzeloos Milieu, added: “As an island that experiences earthquakes regularly, it is time to make a real difference to the people of Lombok and help deliver safe, sustainable homes. We are very grateful to the Ramboll and UCL team, who have demonstrated great enthusiasm and commitment to help this project come to life.”


The Lombok Bamboo Housing project will serve as a blueprint for earthquake-resistant bamboo housing for the wider Shelter forum and humanitarian sector. The designs and learnings will be made freely available, so other communities can be supported to build more resilient homes.

Follow the team’s progress on their blog here and read more about the project here

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