This cheap, modular bamboo home could fix Manila’s housing woes

Young Filipino designs winning entry for RICS’ Cities for Our Future competition

Front view of the award-winning building proposal CUBO

An affordable, expandable housing solution to Manila’s squalid living conditions won the Cities for Our Future challenge by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Earl Patrick Forlales, 23, from the Philippines wowed judges with his take on the local “bahay kubo” or stilt house, beating more than 1,200 entries worldwide.

Like its forerunners, CUBO is made of bamboo, treated and laminated, allowing builders to keep construction costs down to just GBP60 (USD77) per square metre.

Artist’s impression of the CUBO kitchen

With features like a tilted roof that captures rainwater and reduces heat gain, CUBO proposes a dignified alternative to typical dwellings in Manila’s sprawling slums. Multiple units can be configured together in such a way that residents can take advantage of communal kitchens, bathrooms or offices.

Construction of CUBO should take no more than four hours after the arrival of an installation team. Bamboo is abundant in the Philippine islands, where it thrives even on poor-quality soil and can be harvested annually without leading to soil degradation.

Forlales offers CUBO as a low-cost housing option for below-minimum wage earners in the overpopulated metropolis. At an estimated rental cost of just GBP0.20 a day, a CUBO unit could turn a profit within 5.1 years.

“This is a huge step forward to helping the people of Manila,” Forlales said in a statement. “The state of housing in the city is at crisis point, and will undoubtedly get worse with this new influx of workers.

Artist’s impression of a bedroom in CUBO

“CUBO started as nothing more than an idea, conceived while spending time at my grandparent’s house – it is incredible to think that it now will become a reality.”

Forlales’ prize money of GBP50,000 will allow him to start work on CUBO next year. He hopes to replicate the homes in areas across Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Find more images of CUBO, courtesy of RICS:

The courtyard at CUBO
Common area
Laundry area
X-ray render of a single CUBO unit