Ar. Rosario “Ning” Encarnacion-Tan was the next speaker who talked about the Practical Application of Bamboo. Ar. Ning has studied bamboo and traditional building techniques for decades—in fact, she herself lives in a bamboo house. Her research focuses on various building techniques using bamboo, and how the material influences the living patterns and habits of the end user. Ar. Ning discussed that there are many practical reasons why she consider bamboo to be the ideal building material for a tropical house. She said that:

  1. Bamboo is strong: Its tensile strength equals that of steel, and its compressive strength exceeds that of concrete.
  2. Bamboo is flexible: The trunk can be used as columns, posts and beams. Halved, bamboo can be used to create doors, windows, shelves or counters. Cut into slats, it can be used as flooring. It can even be woven into matting for walls or ceilings.
  3. Bamboo is elegant: Properly selected, cut and treated, natural bamboo can be used to build a house that is beautiful, comfortable and totally suited to our climate.
  4. Bamboo is sustainable. In our part of the world, several varieties of bamboo grow abundantly. It is readily available, affordable and best of all, environmentally friendly.
  5. But the main reason why I have chosen to walk the path of bamboo and devote my career as an architect to exploring its potential isn’t a practical one, but an intuitive one: Bamboo just feels right.

A bamboo house, Ar. Ning admits, may not be for everyone. For one thing, while bamboo has been proven to be durable, it is also an organic material with a lifespan that requires maintenance and periodic renewal. The bamboo Ar. Ning uses has been chemically treated to resist insects, but moisture is also an enemy. Steps have to be taken to keep it dry during the rainy months. There is also the prevailing mindset among homeowners that bamboo may be good for a vacation house or a second home, but not as one’s primary residence. This is reinforced by the building codes in some areas which don’t allow houses built entirely of bamboo. Security is also a concern.

Ar. Ning admits bamboo houses are not as lockable as conventional houses, which might limit their use in high-crime areas. Bamboo also seems to impose its essential simplicity on the resident. It might be ideal for people who want their homes to be a quiet retreat from the noise of the world. Younger homeowners who want a more vibrant, urban lifestyle might want to look at other options. “I’ve learned to simplify my lifestyle through living in a bamboo house,” says Tan.