The nipa hut or “bahay kubo” is the indigenous native house of the Philippines. The traditional construction material is bamboo tied together with rattan and covered with a thatched roof made from either grass, coconut or anahaw leaves. The nipa hut is considered an icon of Philippine culture. It represents the bayanihan spirit wherein the entire community contributes materials and labor to build a home for a family. The graphic representation of this spirit is the delivery. The newly constructed nipa hut is carried down the main road of the village on the shoulders of several dozen men to its final destination. If the house is for a newly married couple, the bride is seated next to a window and she waves to bystanders like a princess riding a carriage.
Introduction of Western materials such as concrete, steel and glass relegated the nipa hut to a novelty item. You can still purchase them as a gazebo or backyard playhouse for the children. The price includes delivery charges. Today, the preferred roofing material in the Philippines is corrugated metal, which is awful considering the tropical sun. Of course, wealthy families have the option of installing tiled roofs.
Concerns about global warming and limited resources has resulted in a second look at bamboo as a building material. Bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant. It can play an important role in restoring balance to the earth’s climate system by absorbing carbon dioxide. Every hectare planted to bamboo can consume more than 100 tons of CO2. Bamboo takes CO2 from the atmosphere and converts it through photosynthesis into sugars that it needs to create bamboo fiber.
Research also indicates that bamboo is a better building material to withstand floods, earthquakes and typhoons. It flexes when the ground shakes and bends when subjected to strong winds. The damage from flooding is minimal. Bamboo dries after a few sunny days. After Hurricane Katrina, most of the flooded homes had to be demolished and rebuilt.