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Kawayan Collective: Transforming Bamboo into Homes for Every Filipino

Tune into the #ThinkBamboo Podcast, Ep.41 with Amy Villanueva, co-founder of the Kawayan Collective in Negros Oriental, Philippines. Discover how this employee-owned cooperative is transforming bamboo into sustainable homes for Filipinos. Amy shares the Kawayan Collective’s journey from a sole proprietorship to a thriving cooperative, their innovative construction techniques, and the support they’ve received from Base Bahay, a non-profit funded by the Hilti Foundation. Gain insights into their groundbreaking work with Tinik bamboo, their commitment to affordability and sustainability, and the valuable lessons they’ve learned along the way. Explore how they’re making bamboo housing more accessible and resilient, setting a new standard in sustainable construction.

Video Podcast Interview

Video: ThinkBamboo Podcast with JJ and Amy Villanueva, co-founder of the Kawayan Collective

Video Quick Links

00:00 Introduction and Overview
01:26 Transforming Bamboo into Homes for Filipinos
12:14 The Treatment Process for Bamboo
20:12 Construction Innovations: Cement Bamboo Frame Technology
23:05 Introduction to bamboo house construction
27:05 Exploring the Bahareke 2.0 design
32:01 The use of prefabricated components
34:54 Expanding the cooperative model
42:35 The starter home kit
45:45 Future plans for the Kawayan Collective
46:16 Starter Homes and Preparation for Storms
47:21 The Dumaguete Bamboo Pavilion
53:10 Starting Kawayan Collective and Recommendations
01:01:29 Collaboration and Positive Attitude
01:08:42 Working with Different Bamboo Species
01:10:21 Challenges and Lessons Learned

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Transforming Bamboo into Homes

In the latest episode of the ThinkBamboo podcast, host JJ engages in a riveting discussion with Amy Villanueva, the co-founder of the Kawayan Collective. The conversation spans a variety of topics, focusing on the transformative power of bamboo in the housing industry in the Philippines. Here’s a summary of the key points discussed:

Bamboo Kawayan Cooperative: Transforming Bamboo into Homes for Every Filipino

The Kawayan Collective is an employee-owned agricultural cooperative based in Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines. With a dedicated team of 40 employees (37 of whom are also owners), the cooperative sources bamboo primarily from smallholder farmers’ backyards. They specialize in treating Bambusa blumeana, commonly known as Tinik bamboo, to produce construction-grade materials. From these treated bamboo poles, they create various home kits including starter home kits, expansion kits, and modular kits. Their innovative approach of prefabricating wall panels, roofs, and trusses significantly reduces construction costs. In addition to home kits, the cooperative also produces bamboo furniture and engineered bamboo panels, showcasing the versatility and potential of bamboo as a sustainable building material.

Bamboo Construction Innovations

The Kawayan Collective is at the forefront of bamboo construction innovations, utilizing a unique cement bamboo frame technology. This technique blends modern construction methods with traditional bamboo craftsmanship, resulting in sustainable, durable, and weather-resistant homes. Their Bahareke 2.0 design exemplifies this approach, incorporating bamboo poles, cement plaster, and other materials to ensure structural integrity and resilience against natural disasters such as typhoons. The cooperative’s prefabricated bamboo components further streamline the construction process, making it possible to set up a small, affordable bamboo house in just two weeks. These innovations not only provide immediate housing solutions but also promote long-term sustainability.

Getting Started with the Help of Base Bahay: A Non-Profit Organization in the Philippines

The journey of Kawayan Collective was significantly supported by Base Bahay, a non-profit organization funded by the Hilti Foundation. Base Bahay provided the initial support and expertise needed to transform bamboo into a viable construction material. This collaboration has been instrumental in helping the Kawayan Collective develop their treatment processes and construction techniques, ensuring the bamboo’s longevity and durability. By leveraging the resources and knowledge from Base Bahay, the cooperative has been able to scale its operations and make bamboo housing more accessible to Filipinos across different regions.

Lessons Learned: Embracing the Bamboo Mantra

Throughout their journey, the Kawayan Collective has learned several valuable lessons:

  • No Bamboo Enemy: This mantra highlights the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and collaborative spirit in the bamboo industry. By fostering cooperation and goodwill, the collective has been able to overcome various challenges and build a supportive community.
  • No Bamboo Emergencies: The resilient nature of bamboo and the robust construction techniques developed by the collective ensure that bamboo houses can withstand natural disasters and other emergencies, providing a safe and secure living environment.
  • Avoiding Metal Tanks: The collective learned to steer clear of metal tanks due to corrosion issues. Instead, they focus on using materials that complement the durability and sustainability of bamboo.


The ThinkBamboo podcast episode with Amy Villanueva, co-founder of the Kawayan Collective, offers a deep dive into the innovative and impactful work of the cooperative. Their efforts in transforming bamboo into affordable, durable, and sustainable homes demonstrate the immense potential of bamboo as a building material. With the support of organizations like Base Bahay and a strong commitment to innovation and collaboration, the Kawayan Collective is paving the way for a bamboo revolution in the housing industry. By embracing lessons learned and continuously improving their processes, they are making significant strides towards providing better homes for every Filipino.