Restoring a Regenerative Society

It wasn’t until I moved to the Philippines over 6 years ago that I was hit in the face with the reality of “normal” living standards in the “developing world”… One big realisation for me was that growing up with a fridge in your house is not a “normal” thing… most people buy what they need from each day from the local market, and air-con is a rarity (practically non-existent except in big shopping centres). A fridge produces about 116kg of carbon dioxide per year. We in the developed world have been running those things for a fair while… and have created quite a climate crisis (just to give some perspective in terms of energy use)… Now imagine a scale of four times that (we make up less than 17% of the global population)- who previously had very low energy use, and on average still use only 20% or less of an average “Western” household, becoming energy users like “us”… conceptualise how BIG that is and you will get a Real perspective on what’s going on with energy use… Energy demands are skyrocketing…. as the “developing world” becomes more “developed” and adopts the consumer-western lifestyle.

In the west we have moved far away from low-power consumption living and developing countries are following that pattern generally. Even though we talk about the possibility of living in a less resource-consumptive way through building with more natural materials and using passive solar design to lessen the need for air-con, and of living near or buying our food from regenerative farmers and supporting CSA cooperatives (Community Supported Agriculture – which means local farmers benefit better financially than if they sell their produce to big chains) and reducing food miles…. We are even attempting to design communities where food-growing is part of the system/wholistic plan. The question is, Can this model of sustainable resource use and community/ environmental benefit ” take off” /be maintained where it already exists or partially still exists and could it “catch on” in developing countries “before it’s too late”…….. ? In terms of the environmental effects of current energy-demanding lifestyles worldwide, increased food miles and need to create artificial environments to store food and ourselves in? And, stave-off the movement towards urbanisation while preventing the loss of traditional skills such as food-growing.

And in terms of bamboo becoming a sustainble mass-produced material for the masses, I still wonder whether people in developing countires will be able to afford to use it “in time” to ward off an environmental crisis such as we are already up against (though havent seen the full effects yet (rising sea levels, more extreme weather)… as, it is my observation that wages in developing countries are so low that brick and tile will remain more attractive due to cost and I am skeptical as to whether business interests in the bamboo industry would create initiatives to subsidise the cost of fabricated bamboo building products at a price in-line with what people in developing countries can afford (I’m imagining again 70% of the world population fall into this ‘catagory’ of wage-earner…

Courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor Imagery

On the topic of treatment for bamboo – which remains the main hinderance to its use/uptake in developing countries, essentially treatment doubles the cost. So, especially for people in developing countries who may have access to bamboo or family land on which they can grow bamboo… it is still seen as just a “temporary” building material although some appropriate planning could make bamboo affordable: Through treating it traditionally which involves “soaking” it for up to a year (depending on the type of bamboo) which ferments the sugars out of the bamboo and makes it less attractive to its primary destroyer – the powder post beetle (which eats the bamboo from the inside of the culm – literally turning posts into powder). And in general terms for people wanting to build with bamboo in Western countries, the material price can be reduced considerably by using the traditional method (also used in Vietnam and India as well as Bali and Java but currently not seen as “efficient” time-wise ).

We mainly work with bamboo in it’s native form (i.e. un-fabricated) as it will probably be quite some time before laminated and factory-processed bamboo materials become affordable in developing countries to people on “local wage” rates. Increasingly, bamboo is being grown or is already present as a resource in developing countries, such as Uganda… but skills are lacking for local people to utilise it in building their homes/houses. We aim to influence development patterns and material use/building trends in countries where bamboo is a somewhat abundant resource – where the current trend towards brick and tile homes (with air-con and fridges) is ever-increasing…. and develop building styles with bamboo that are “attractive” and can be applied to a “modern” context of living – by everyday people who aspire to “normal” societal standards – as we all DO like to live in a nice house right? It’s naturally “human” to seek social status and to have some pride for where one lives.

The priorities are:

  1. Price/Affordability
  2. Style/Practicality
  3. Skills/Methods

We are developing capacity to do some trials for the traditional age-old treatment process of soaking/fermenting bamboo (a widely used preservation method used before modern materials and time-constraints “took over”). We would like to make an economic evaluation on using this method accounted into the life/growing cycle of bamboo….. As, in reality, one extra year (for the treatment process) factored in – could save on the costs of treatment (borax and boric acid products – also a finite resource) which are often more expensive than the raw material cost of the bamboo to make a building.

So what about affordable bamboo design and building that COULD suit people in developing countries which would make it “Last Longer”, making it more attractive, and could also reduce power/energy consumption in average homes when combined with Earth-building… could overcome the shortfalls of bamboo… the main one being that is has practically zero insulative properties for sound – which makes it very unattractive for closely-spaced settlement. We are developing our build to be affordable and to incorporate earth-building traditions and I am super excited to be collaborating with Josh Geiger, an Earth Builder from the US, to see how cob, lime straw and clay straw panels can work with bamboo and create more insulative properties for a bamboo building.

We all know that Bali bamboo builders are some of the best-skilled in the world and having recently finished our first online training with a Malaysian construction company who have had their first taste of bamboo-building Bali-style, we are excited to see how many builders we can affect and bring bamboo-building to a practical awareness that can benefit more people and be a style/concept that (bar strict building codes which currently make building innovation extremely difficult) that could be applied in western countries – which a group of 6 or 8 people could build.

Belega Ecocentre: Bamboo for the future: for all the world’s people – means making it Affordable, Attractive and Accessible to build with… Follow our community build in Bali’s village of world-famous bamboo builders – where we aim to make bamboo-building programs accessible to everyday people, retain traditional skills and knowledge of Bali’s artisans, and uplift rural folk and collaboratively create meaningful enrichment by spending time in community.

Come and learn from the best and become an unbeatable bamboo builder!! Our programs run 6 days a week (Monday to Saturday) and can be adapted to a part-time schedule of 3 days/week over a double time-period.

Course Costs:

One Week Program: USD$298 / Rp.4,400,000 (includes one on one basic training and mentorship for Bamboo Construction)

Two-week Program: USD$685 / Rp.9,600,000 (includes one-on-one basic training and construction mentorship)

Three-week Program: USD$845 / Rp.12,000,000 (includes training and mentorship in bamboo construction, on-site build and construction experience program)

One-month Program: USD$990 / Rp.14,000,000 (includes training in bamboo and construction and design mentorship for individual construction project)


Nightly rate: USD$9 / Rp.130,000 (basic room and breakfast)

Monthly rate: USD$170 / Rp.2,300,000 (basic room and breakfast)

Fill out our enquiry form and let us know what you want to learn about with bamboo.

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