ADMU grad cites 'bahay kubo' as inspiration for award-winning concept

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2018 02:48 AM | Updated as of Nov 23 2018 05:02 PM

MANILA - Inspired by his grandparent’s bahay kubo or nipa hut in Bulacan, Earl Patrick Forlales dreamt of an affordable housing solution made from the ubiquitous bamboo plant.

The dream became a reality this year when the 23-year-old’s CUBO concept won the grand prize of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) Cities for our Future competition.

The competition, which marks RICS’ 150th anniversary, was created to gather solutions that address the urban world’s many problems. From 1,200 entries, competition judges picked 12 finalists, who were mentored by experts from all over the world. 

Forlales, who graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a double degree in chemistry and material science engineering, was announced on Thursday as the winner of the competition.

RICS President John Hughes, in an online video interview with ABS-CBN, said they chose Forlales’ CUBO for many reasons.

“It was very clear his was the best. It was simple. It was something that could be implement. It wasn’t gonna take millions and billions of dollars to implement. Also what was nice about it was it was tied in culturally with the environment in which he was wanting it to be implemented. In our terms of surveying, it really measured up in many levels,” Hughes said. 

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Forlales said he wanted to solve the housing woes caused by Metro Manila’s fast growing population. He attributed it to the exodus of construction workers into the metropolis because of both the private and the government sectors’ infrastructure projects.

“CUBO is an upgraded version of our traditional bahay kubo,” he said, explaining that while traditional nipa huts use unprocessed bamboo, his will utilize treated bamboo panels. “This engineered bamboo can last 50 years.”

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Forlales said the pre-fabrication process will last a week while the installation will just take up 4 hours.

Each basic 12 square meter unit can house 2 people. To better utilize space, Forlales imagines a community of bamboo houses, where the units are attached to each other and to communal units, which can serve as bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry areas.

“The goal is to empower those already living in the community,” he said, adding that the construction workers themselves can be hired to build the units.

Forlales’ CUBO, in this sense, is not just a sustainable business, but a social enterprise.

He plans to create units that can be rented for just P450 a month. And because the houses are made from pre-fabricated materials, they can be disassembled and transported to other areas like the traditional bahay kubo.

He hopes though that the government and the private sector would consider it as a permanent solution to the housing problem faced by many cities.

For the next year, Forlales will be putting his £50,000 prize money to good use by forming a team and working on CUBO’s prototypes and model units. 

He hopes to have 10,000 units up and running by 2023 with the help of investors.