Last week the MCIC welcomed engineering students from the interdisciplinary course ‘Sustainable Energy for Developing Countries’ to experiment with methods for using bamboo as a sustainable construction material.
The course is partnered with Australian NGO, RAW Impact, who are working in Cambodia to assist the poorest rural communities through hands on building projects. The project brief involves designing a bamboo treatment facility and workshop to be located in the small community of Sarikakaev, consisting of just 100 families. Sarikakaev Commune was established with the aim of providing permanent accommodation to house displaced people who are relocated from the outskirts of the rapidly expanding city of Phnom Penh. The bamboo processing facility is part of an initiative to build the capacity for residents to earn a living and provide a system for them to build and maintain affordable housing.
In Cambodia, bamboo is a sustainable, lightweight material that can be found locally in abundance. Around the world there is a movement exploring how bamboo can be used in sustainable building. RAW Impact is interested to explore and demonstrate the use of bamboo as an affordable building material, and it’s potential to provide sustainable livelihoods for the communities they support.
“The students take a holistic approach to understanding community needs and housing requirements,” says the convener of the course, Dr Anna Bruce, “including looking at available resources, appropriate technology and indigenous techniques and engaging in dialogue with the community.”
In the MCIC Makerspace, students are experimenting with the bamboo to prototype construction joints and learn its practical capabilities. Working with bamboo poses a large amount of technical challenges, as it needs to be carefully treated for longevity, and due to its unique properties, requires special building design and construction techniques. The knowledge acquired through hands on experimenting will help inform the students with their final design of the treatment facility.
Students will have the opportunity to travel to Cambodia in January and help construct the bamboo processing facility they are designing.