December 11, 2018
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Low-cost bamboo homes to help ease housing shortage in metro Manila

Manila, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- A young Filipino architect has designed a simple and affordable bamboo house that he says could provide the solution to the challenges faced by millions living in the slums of Manila, one of the world's most overpopulated cities.

The CUBO housing project was developed by 23-year-old Earl Forlales, who was awarded two weeks ago with the international Cities for our Future Challenge, sponsored by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in London.

The RICS jury, which awarded Forlales £50,000 (about $64,000), applauded CUBO as a functional and practical solution to a global problem.

"(The) inspiration came from my childhood. I grew up in the humble bamboo hut of my grandparents in the province of Bulacan, which has stood for decades," Forlales told EFE.

With the prize money, the young architect will build the first prototype CUBO, a project that aims to offer affordable and sustainable housing for the one-third of Manila's nearly 13 million residents.

Forlales says there is an urgent need to find a solution to the lack of decent housing, with 2.5 million Filipinos in search of jobs expected to move to the capital over the next three years, according to estimates by humanitarian organizations.

"CUBO is a simple solution to an urgent problem. Not only for Manila, but for other cities that also suffer from overpopulation and poverty in Asia, Latin America or Africa, where bamboo is cultivated," said Forlales, a graduate in chemical and material engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University.

A 12 square meter (130 square feet) CUBO unit can be built in just four hours, meaning dozens of low-income families can be sheltered in a matter of days.

The secret to the project's low cost is bamboo, which grows easily and quickly. It takes only three years to mature and can be replanted up to 15 times without damaging the soil or decreasing productivity.

"Bamboo also releases up to 35 percent more oxygen into the environment than other trees," said Forlales, who also wants his project to be environmentally sustainable.

The first prototype will be ready by Mar. 2019, when the project will be tested under environmental conditions. If everything goes according to plan, the first CUBO housing project should be completed by the end of next year.

"The goal of CUBO is to partner with financial institutions to sponsor the construction of the project, and to pay for the units' rents until the tenant families find jobs and cover the payments," he explained.

Forlales has already identified a suitable site to develop the first CUBO community (with the help of RICS experts) in Makati, a financial district in the heart of Manila with easy access to basic services.

The idea is to ensure that the new population flowing into the capital in the coming years will not have to settle in the increasingly distant suburbs of the periphery of Greater Manila, an agglomeration of about 30 million people.

"The world's cities are growing all the time, and there is a real need to make sure they are safe, clean and comfortable places to live in," said John Hughes, competition judge and RCIS president.

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