Building Hope with Bamboo
Raphaël Ascoli has been selected as part of UNICEF Innovation30: Young Innovators Shaping the Future.
Countries of Solution Deployment: Myanmar
Innovation Accelerator: Massachusetts Institute for Technology, United States
Raphaël Ascoli's groundbreaking innovation, Housing Now, reshapes how we perceive emergency shelter. The French architect, now 31, is revolutionizing sustainable housing for children and communities in Myanmar. His innovation harnesses the power of the unconventional 'wakam' species of local bamboo. Traditionally used for crafting brooms, Raphaël uses these bamboos to build durable, affordable, and dignified homes. Bamboo has a significantly lower total environmental impact than other building materials.
His approach is holistic, sourcing bamboo, prefabricating building components, and assembling homes with the involvement of the local community. This method is especially crucial for the needs of the estimated 1.7 million internally displaced families in Myanmar.
A unique aspect of the innovative solution he developed in his twenties is bundling small bamboo units on concrete footings, ensuring resilience and modularity. While a single structure spans 12 square meters, combining units can cover up to 80 square meters.
Housing Now is developing a community center, preschool units and clinics. Raphaël stresses policymakers to urgently address the construction sector, which is responsible for 30 per cent of global emissions, and he believes bamboo could be the game-changer we desperately need. The profit potential for farming bamboo is extremely interesting, as even giant bamboo species suitable for construction can reach maturity within 5 years and can be harvested every year onwards. Compare that to growing sustainable wood, which does not reach growth until 25 years, and it becomes obvious why investors are paying attention.
For Raphaël, bamboo isn't just a material; it's a symbol of sustainability and resilience. He advises aspiring innovators, "Don't be afraid of pushing the idea as far as it can go. Ideas are only crazy until they get built."