I'm excited to be a new volunteer with an emerging non-profit based in Vancouver, BC. Design For Development is dedicated to using the design process as a problem-solving tool to address issues in poverty-stricken areas of the world.
In 2007, DFD worked with two Emily Carr University student interns to create the Bambulance. And now, the Bambulance is a finalist for the 2009 Index:Award Design To Improve Life.
The Bambulance is a bicycle–pulled emergency medical transport device created in response to the lack of safe, affordable and sustainable healthcare transportation in underserved communities in the developing world.
With the aim of saving lives by improving emergency transit times for communities where motorized transport is unavailable or inappropriate, the Bambulance is a cost-efficient and sustainable trailer and stretcher combination, pared down to essential materials. Composed almost entirely of bamboo, bicycle inner tube, and reused trucking tarp, the Bambulance is designed to be affordable to community members, utilizing local materials and trade skills in its construction.
Inspired by skin-on-frame building techniques, the chassis frame and stretcher are fabricated using simple hand tools and craft processes, making the parts easy to assemble and disassemble for repair and replacement. Bamboo – an underutilized locally available resource in Western Kenya and other African regions - is inexpensive, sustainable, lightweight and strong.
With the initial design taking place under the guidance of the Design For Development Society and in consultation with Kenyan partners and healthcare providers, the Bambulance will first be manufactured and piloted in western Kenya.
FORM: The Bambulance stretcher and trailer frame are composed of 2” diameter bamboo poles, connected with uniform triangular gusset joints, and secured in a weave of reused bicycle inner tube lashing. This construction and joining system enables the frame to flex in torsion, while providing integral structural support and shock absorption. Curved steel tube ribs with integrated feet offer additional strength and keep the stretcher in tension.
Waterproof trucking tarp serves as a resilient, non-permeable suspension bed for the stretcher, as protective wheel-guards and as a rain/sun awning. Ergonomically placed handholds are patterned along the stretcher bed to facilitate comfortable side loading and unloading options and allow for easy access to safety straps.
Carrying a patient over distances is done by means of handle extensions at the front and back of the stretcher. Reflector strips placed on the wheel-guards and sides of the stretcher bed provide nighttime visibility, and serve as index lines for guiding the stretcher onto the trailer. Once the stretcher has been safely loaded onto the chassis, a simple bamboo bar is threaded between the stretcher’s curved metal feet and trailer frame to lock the stretcher securely in place.
The trailer has an ergonomic pull bar with a width of 21”, which can be comfortably pulled or pushed by an individual on foot. The ambulance trailer also attaches to a bicycle at the seat post by means of a hitch, or a mule by means of a harness extending from the pull bar. With a comfortable clearance of 13” from road obstacles and a low center of gravity, treaded mountain bike wheels on each side of the trailer provide a smooth and stable ride for sick or injured passengers.
IMPACT: The Bambulance project will:
Improve access to health services for underserved communities through the production of a safe, secure and cost effective medical transport device for use in developing countries.
Ease the burden on HIV/AIDS healthcare workers and respite volunteers by providing them with a tool that allows them to better care for their patients;
Introduce bamboo as an alternative, affordable and structurally viable manufacturing material.
Advocate for men, women and children affected by HIV and AIDS, for marginalized groups and for community organizations by providing them with trades skills and increased economic opportunity;
Promote the use of the design process to address issues in underserved communities by involving design students, designers, local partners and the communities themselves in the entire project cycle.
CONTEXT: Every day in Africa and the developing world, thousands of people suffering from HIV/AIDS, malaria and other serious illnesses and injuries die because they have no access to emergency and general healthcare services. The difference between life and death can often come down to a pair of wheels.
Less than 1% of households in Africa have access to private motorized transportation. In rural areas, public motorized transportation is also scarce or non-existent. The road networks that do exist are often so poor that many areas can only be accessed by vehicles with four wheel drive capability.
As a result of remote location and poor transportation systems, much of the developing world does not have adequate access to medical facilities. Health clinics and hospitals can be many kilometers from rural villages. Transport is most obviously a health issue in times of emergency, when people need to reach health facilities quickly. The health of those with debilitating chronic illnesses is also compromised, as they do not have the strength or means to reach health services by foot.
Building on the success of Design For Development’s steel-framed bicycle ambulance, the Bambulance is designed specifically for areas in which bamboo is plentiful. It is hoped that by further minimizing costs and ensuring local manufacturing capabilities, the Bambulance is able to be an affordable and sustainable solution for an even broader range of communities in need.
DESIGNED BY: Philippa Mennell, Canada, Chris Ryan, Canada, Niki Dun, Canada, Philippe Schlesser, Luxembourg