Woman puts mad faith in bamboo - Constructing building from trash and hollow jointed stem
It is hard to drive through the St Andrew West Rural community of Cavaliers and not notice Beverley Edwards' bamboo building. For the past three years, the 60-odd year old woman, who admits being called 'mad' by persons who are perplexed by her actions, has been working diligently to complete the structure.
A seamstress by profession, Edwards said that the space will serve as a her workshop and showroom for the bed spreads and chair covers that she makes. However, she said that it is possible that she will move out of her concrete house, which is on the same property, and live there.
Edwards said that the decision to make the bamboo structure came almost four years ago, after the community centre she was constructing was destroyed in an alleged act of arson.
"Me never cry, me never sad or anything. Me think 'alright, why not make a house to cool out?'. So I did all of this," she said, pointing to the unfinished structure.
Edwards is convinced that the two-storey building, which she said will have three rooms and a patio, will be a safe, efficient space for her. When the new steam visited the site one the weekend, Edwards was hard at work, though she was not decked in a hard hat or steel-toed boots.
She told THE STAR that she uses plastic bottles, cardboard and bamboo sourced within the community as her main source of building materials. The walls are four feet thick.
"I don't want inside to be bamboo, so I used these cones [cardboard], something that they bring off ships and me just press dem and use dem for drywall. Most things weh me use is things that people would dump, me just take everything and use everything. There is nothing in here that I bought. I use plastic bottles for the roof, that is to get natural lighting. I don't intend to turn on nuh light in here, and I think I like it the whole thing about it being natural," Edwards shared, boasting a broad grin.
The manual labour also comes at no charge, as the sexagenarian does the hard work herself, completing tasks one step at a time. She revealed that the only cost in construction is the purchasing of nails.
The mother-of-two holds firm that bamboo is the best material to be used in construction. Its durability, she said, is one that withstands rotting and heavy rain. Edwards assured that the building is strong.
"You know why my house so thick? You have to cover the main bamboo. You have to strap and brace it, it's not how much you put in the ground you know, you have to put a whole heap of bamboo in the ground because it will rotten, if it is exposed. I have to make it thick and when I get it levelled, I just scratch weh a little part, put some plastic and put the foot of the bamboo down on it and strap it. Once bamboo is covered, it is not going anywhere, bamboo is good, me love it. It is safe," she said, her voice evident in confidence.
The construction of houses and other buildings from bamboo is not an oddity in Jamaica. In January 2020, the National Housing Trust donated $54 million to the BSJ to research and construct houses primarily from bamboo materials.
Additionally, through a collaborative arrangement involving the Bureau of Standards, University of Technology (UTech), University of the West Indies, and private-sector groups, research was undertaken for the incorporation of bamboo in construction, with the aim of building attractive low and middle-income houses, and tourist cabins.
Edwards is not awaiting the results from any studies to confirm her faith in the tough grass. She reasoned that bamboo houses are not faced with possible damage from pests such as duck ants that are found in structures made of plyboard.
"Some people call me mad but me just laugh because me know what me doing. Me just a laugh after dem because me know when me done, my building a guh laugh after me," said Edwards.
She said that taking her building to the current state involves a lot of " trial and error", but she is determined to see her project completed.
Marvelled at her handiwork, although incomplete, Edwards feels good to witness her accomplishment. And the attention she receives from residents and motorists is one she said that gives her the motivation to have the project completed by the end of the year.
"I mean, the taxi guys, the people around me, they get so excited, they actually push you along. 'Lady you building hard, it bad'. They will stop and they will encourage you a lot. It pushes you to go more and more and then I just use a lot of natural things. I just repurpose a lot of things and build my house from scratch," the mother of two told THE STAR.