Lashing the reciprocal frame

This was an opportunity for 46 young humanitarians / engineers to experience working with the bamboo RSK emergency relief shelters.. The one and a half hour workshops enabled participants to build their own single and double RSK shelters, and also to demonstrate how easily the roof can be elevated to provide a transitional shelter. The final group also lowered the shelter to experience the low profile "Storm Shelter".

I would like to thank the enthusiastic participants for their valuable feedback and comments that will assist the shelter program in future.

Shaun Halbert.


Supporting the roof frame


Completing the roof frame


Completing the double RSK shelter frame


Lifting one side of the double shelter

RedR UK 19th & 20th Sepember 2015. Bamboo Reciprocal Frame Shelters: Workshop Report


Three of the six teams with RedR leaders.


The 50 participants had come together for a RedR UK
"hands on " weekend. Most, but not all, were from the engineering profession.

The only previous workshops to build multiple reciprocal frame bamboo shelters had been in Myanmar 2015 and Nepal 2013.

Three different types of reciprocal frame roof shelter were built;
basic emergency, single elevated and double elevated shelter.

Skills level:

Building with bamboo is not something we are familiar with in UK so it would be fair to say that initial skill levels were low.



Unlike previous workshops, no demonstration of frame assembly or how to do cross- lashing was given. Instead, after a brief 5 minute introduction, a single page assembly diagram was provided for each shelter team and individuals encouraged to use their own initiative.

The dimensions for cutting the bamboo were set out on a second sheet as follows:


This is a 7 bamboo pole ReciproBoo Shelter Kit (RSK) for 4 persons. It is the only shelter that does not have poles sunk into the ground. It relies on the heavy guy ropes, the side rope stakes and the burying of the tarp edges in shallow trenches to anchor it to the ground. The simple prop support poles enable it to be lowered to the severe storm profile within 5 minutes. It is easily disassembled and carried by refugees on the move.


The second team's basic 7 pole shelter kit nears completion.
The elevated shelter frame is in the foreground.

The assembly diagram :

This generally worked well.

One problem was that the grey poles were not clear enough to see on multiple overlaps. It would be improved if black was used for all the poles.

The diagrams can be improved but
this was a most encouraging start.

The idea is to work towards an assembly diagram that does not include words needing translation.

Build assessment:

Both teams building this shelter erected a strong shelter rapidly which is the purpose of this simple kit.

All the lashings were satisfactory in keeping the frame square during assembly.

Synthetic hemp ropes were used for the side ropes and available nylon for the two guy ropes.

Bamboo stakes were made from the cut- offs for rope attachment.

One team completed an end wall for the shelter.

Unfortunately there was not a suitable wall to demonstarte how the roof can be elevated.

PICT0015 - Copy

Basic shelter with tarpaulin and guy rope attachment over the top of support posts. This is the preferred method.


Basic shelter with tarpaulin not included in guy rope attachment to top of support posts. Reciprocal frame roof to the right gives good support to the tarpaulin compared to the "A" frame arrangement to the left.

Completing an end wall to the shelter


This is a 12 bamboo pole shelter for 4 persons.It supports heavy insulation ( up to 100 Kgs) and is therefore suitable for hot or cold climates.
It is the first simple upgrade of the basic emergency shelter that a family can build when sufficient bamboo becomes available.


Attaching the side wall using twine and available rope.


The shelter was higher than planned.
Part of this was due to support posts not sunk deep enough. As the bamboo was thinner than normal it would have been better to also reduce the overall length of the support poles.

The main roof tarpaulin was well supported at its centre with the bamboo reciprocal frame.



This is a 21 pole bamboo shelter for up to 6 persons. Mainly for use in a tropical climate to produce a cooler well ventilated dignified living space.

Assembly diagram :

One group lashed together a perfect, but upside down, reciprocal frame.
This was the first time I have seen this done.

In the same group the second reciprocal frame was lashed underneath the ridge poles instead of on top.

It is possible that both these errors were due to the poor definition of the overlapping poles on the diagrams supplied. In future black ink will be used for poles instead of grey.

Alternatively, it may be due to a degree of over confidence when working from the diagrams given. The 4 pole reciprocal frame is very simple but requires a few moments attention when laying it out.


Frame assembly


One of these reciprocal frame poles has a second uncut pole alongside (see notes).

Build assessment:


Large span shelter or half a classroom

The freedom to use their own initiative for the lashings worked well; the reciprocal frames held together with no recorded slippage.

A lightweight plastic sheet was used instead of a tarpaulin for demonstration purposes.

By placing 4 uncut poles alongside those in the reciprocal frame roof we demonstarted how these extensions could meet up with the outer ridge poles. These extended frame poles would add further support to the tarpaulin.

This was first suggested by by Red Cross engineers in Nepal ( see Nepal workshop report).

Where the bamboo is thinner or more flexible, using extended frame poles instead of cutting them could be a consideration.


Lashing quality was variable but satisfactory overall


The flexibility of this bamboo is being demonstrated here. Also, three of the reciprocal frame poles have been extended (see notes)

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