Myanmar Red Cross

Workshop to build bamboo reciprocal frame roof relief shelters based on the ReciproBoo Shelter Kit (RSK)

26th and 27th February 2015
Yangon Regional Red Cross Office

30 members of the Myanmar Red Cross took part in a shelter training day on 26th February 2015. This was an opportunity to build relief shelters using a new method of shelter construction.

After a short introduction to the method, the teams set about building the four different types of shelter. Within 4 hours the shelters were complete.

The shelters were built to a high standard and a credit to the skills of participants.At the discussion afterwards there was unanimous agreement that this shelter construction method could have real benefits in Myanmar.

On Friday 27th February the shelters were demonstrated to other organisations in the shelter sector including Habitat for Humanity, UNOPS , Seeds Asia, Save The Children and representatives form Yangon Technological College.

The following report highlights the new initiatives for bamboo RSK construction introduced by this Myanmar workshop.

Details of the construction method used can be found in the following Nepal Workshop Report.


Myanmar bamboo shelter workshop report:


IFRC shelter kit



Dry bamboo poles purchased in Yangon, 30mm to 45mm diameter.

IFRC 12mm polypropylene rope.

Locally sourced coconut fibre twine and bamboo strips.

Standard triple laminated 6m x 4m relief tarpaulin, weight 4.5Kg.

Bamboo mats.
3m x 1.9m


Standard IFRC shelter kit tools used

Shelter 1: The basic emergency bamboo RSK


Main frame being lashed to ridge pole

Key points

> requires only 7 bamboo poles

> rapid assembly in 30 minutes

> supports heavy insulation so cooler than a tent

> uses 33% less bamboo than any other type of frame

> lightweight and easily carried

> it can easily be lowered to a storm profile if required

> easily upgraded to the elevated or double shelters

Myanmar modifications

> Dimensions used were in feet and inches:

4 x 9ft frame poles
2 x 7ft support poles
1 x 12ft ridge pole

Central frame overlap was set to 2ft 6in

> Polypropylene rope was used for the side ropes:

The 3 main strands of the 12mm IFRC shelter kit
rope were unwound to provide suitable side ropes.
Although thinner than the 6mm natural fibre ropes
used at previous workshops the rope functioned well.

> Solid ground:

The ground was hardcore and brick. Driving in stakes
for rope attachment was difficult. Improvisation was

> Tarpaulin attachment:

Bamboo strips that had been soaked overnight in
water were used for tarpaulin attachment. This
worked well.

As expected, use was made of the central frame for
the end wall tarpaulin attachment.

The ground tarpaulin was wrapped around a spare
bamboo pole.


Tarpaulin attachment to central frame


Basic emergency shelter with single side wall

Shelter 2: The single elevated bamboo RSK

Key points

> requires 12 bamboo poles

> rapid assembly

> the roof frame can be elevated onto a low wall in an urban
disaster or used to repair a damaged roof

> supports heavy insulation so cooler than a tent

> uses 33% less bamboo than any other type of frame

> it can be lowered to a storm profile within 5 minutes if required

> it is easily upgraded to the double shelters


Double click to insert body text here ...

This shelter requires only 12 bamboo poles.


Two bamboo posts were sunk into the ground to support this roof.
In an urban disaster a low masonry wall could have been used for this purpose.


Heavy bamboo matting was used to insulate the roof.
This resulted in a much cooler shelter.

The team added an improvised awning that could be lowered as seen here.

Shelter 3: The double bamboo RSK

Key points

> this shelter provides an additional 6 square metres of floor
space and an extra 20cm of headroom for the addition of only 4
more poles (if side ropes used, or 8 poles if bamboo used)

> rapid assembly

> either of the two roof frames can be elevated onto a low wall or
bamboo posts

> supports heavy insulation so cooler than a tent

> uses 33% less bamboo than any other type of frame

> it can be lowered to a storm profile if required

> it is easily upgraded to the double elevated shelter


Two frames supported by either posts or laterally inclined props. The team built both types of support for demonstration purposes.


This shelter provides over 20 square metres of floor space and maximum headroom of over 2 metres.


Inside space with double reciprocal frames overhead.


This double shelter is considerably larger than the basic shelter (far right) and may be built first if bamboo resources are available.

Shelter 4: The double elevated bamboo shelter (DERSK)

Key points

> this shelter provides a large well ventilated living space and over
20 square metres of standing space

> rapid assembly compared to traditional shelters

> supports heavy insulation so cooler than a tent

> uses 20% less bamboo than any other type of frame

> it is can be lowered to a storm profile if required


Double elevated frame. Note that both ridge poles are supported in a recess that is cut out of the top of each support post..

This shelter roof supports heavy insulation. Bamboo matting was used for this demonstration.


The tarpaulin and bamboo matting are secured to the bamboo frame using strips of bamboo.

From basic emergency shelter to more permanent shelter in 3 stages.

Assessing the shelter build

1. Skill levels of participants.

Unlike previous workshops in Nepal and UK, nearly all the team members were experienced in handling bamboo and several had considerable skill in building with bamboo. This resulted in minimal levels of supervision being required and a high standard of shelter being built.

2. Adoption of the new concept.

A short “hands on” practical session using 4 wooden chopsticks was found to be most useful for introducing the reciprocal frame concept as well as demonstrating the weight bearing strength of the frame.

Although very simple, the concept is so new to people that there are always individuals who need tlme to work it out. The default build is invariably a “clockwise” reciprocal frame; so asking people to build an “anticlockwise” reciprocal frame is a true test if the concept has been fully understood.
As the frame only “works” ( ie supports weight) when correctly overlapped it was clear by the end of the session that everyone had understood the concept.

It is worth ensuring that the “overlapping poles in turn” principle of reciprocal frames is understood by everyone beforehand to ensure they can convey this to other members of a community at a later date.

3. Final shelter build quality.

The RF shelter frames which were built achieved a high standard of support for the tarpaulins and bamboo matting.

This was particularly evident with the shelter roofs that were loaded with bamboo matting as they were subjected to considerable rough handling.

Central frame distortion was minimal despite the rapid unsupervised assembly of some frames, there were no RF failures and the end frame overlap of approximately 5mm was maintained throughout.

Individuals were seen to manually flex the frames from below indicating that considerable further loading with insulating materials would have been possible.

The main problem was the hardness of the ground. The site was an impacted school playground that comprised a thin superficial layer of sand/soil on top of crude hardcore and bricks. This made digging holes for the support poles difficult and driving in bamboo stakes for guy rope anchors near impossible. Fortunately three of the shelters are free standing and the double elevated shelter posts achieved the required post depth of 40 cms.

After initial pole cutting, the tape measure was dispensed with and measurements were estimated by eye.

The final results were very good as shown by the close fit of the tarpaulins and square bamboo matting.

4. Feedback from participants.

When participants were asked if this type of bamboo shelter construction method could have applications in Myanmar the answer was a unanimous agreement that it could.

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