UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


UCL CEGE expertise aids Ramboll volunteers in Indonesia

16 September 2019

A UCL team led by CEGE’s Dr Rodolfo Lorenzo have lent their expertise to a sustainable housing project in Lombok, Indonesia. Digital design techniques will be used to develop building templates for earthquake-resistant bamboo homes, utilising local materials.

Ramboll engineers arrive onsite to meet the local Lombok team, with bamboo building materials in the foreground

As the below article from the Ramboll website details, volunteers from the engineering company have travelled to Lombok to commence the construction of low-cost, sustainable bamboo housing for the earthquake-prone Indonesian island, in partnership with UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), and a local non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Lombok-based NGO 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. From September to November 2019, volunteers are set to 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 magnitude 7 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 Lombok after the earthquakes, and developed the architectural design together with the local community: “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.”

As a result of the lack of design codes for safe bamboo housing, Ramboll sought UCL CEGE’s expertise to test bamboo properties together, to validate prior Ramboll research, and ensure that sourced bamboo had roughly the properties found in academic publications. This enabled Ramboll to design the house and size the bamboo elements. A team from UCL CEGE will visit Indonesia during the construction of the template houses to 3D scan every bamboo piece, barcode them and track their final position, allowing Ramboll to back-analyse the houses, understand the material better and refine the design in the future.

UCL Lecturer Dr Rodolfo Lorenzo, who currently teaches modules on CEGE’s Civil Engineering BEng and MEng degrees, commented how 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 Ramboll/UCL 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 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.


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  • Copyright: Ramboll