At Cubo Modular, Zahra Halabisaz Zanjani is enabling people in the Philippines to build a sustainable, affordable home in as little as 4 hours

“It seems so simple to ask for basic necessities like a house, but the reality is, a vast number of people in the Philippines do not have homes they can call their own,” says Zahra Halabisaz Zanjani, the co-founder of housing provider Cubo Modular. “There are a lot of players in the [housing] industry with booming infrastructure projects, so why are there so many people without access to a home?”

Born and raised in Manila, Zanjani decided to respond to the Philippines’ housing challenges in the most practical way possible: by creating high-quality, customisable, affordable homes that can be built in just hours. Co-founded with Earl Patrick Forlales, Cubo Modular is the first and only sustainable modular housing company in the country.

All of Cubo Modular’s housing kits use unique engineered bamboo—both for its sustainability and durability. “The bamboo comes from a renewable source. You don’t need to chop forests or dig mountains to build our houses,” Zanjani says. “Bamboo is also energy-saving as it is a natural heat and sound insulator—perfect for the Southeast Asian climate—and it has superior engineering properties with 14 times greater strength than concrete and local Philippine hardwood.”

We speak to Zanjani about the different homes that Cubo Modular offers and what we can expect to see next from the company.

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Cubo offers a variety of homes, all of which are built in space-efficient ways. Can you tell us more about the different models you offer?
All our house kits are pre-fabricated and ready to assemble on-site, with each configuration tailor-fit to the homeowner's needs.

Apart from our custom designs, the Bulacan model is a 30.5 sqm studio-type that can fit up to four people. The Sarangani is a 63.5 sqm family-size home that can fit up to six people. Homeowners have the option to choose between our starter package, which includes all the standard features such as doors, windows, bathroom and toilet, and electrical and plumbing systems, or our suite package, which is ready to be moved into on turnover day. It includes all the essentials of the starter package as well as others such as custom-fit furniture, multi-use storage, a built-in outdoor lounge and others. There are also optional upgrades that can help level up your home.

How do Cubo’s building methods and materials ensure that its homes is strong and durable?
Cubo Modular follows the international residential code following the principles of light frame and timber construction. We use a heavy-duty steel typhoon and earthquake strap system, which creates a strong and resilient structure. All our Cubos are also bolted down onto the foundation to weather the harsh Philippine climate. On Christmas Day 2020, we experienced a 6.3 magnitude earthquake and our homes stood through it.

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Can you share about Cubo's sustainability mission?
We believe that building homes shouldn’t mean destroying our planet. At the end of the day, it will be future generations who will have to pay for the destruction that we and those before us have caused. Bamboo has been used as a building material for centuries and it only takes three years for it to grow to be used structurally. Also, it's said that a considerable amount of carbon dioxide is sequestered per tonne of bamboo, which means that the more we plant and grow bamboo, the less impact we have on climate change.

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What’s next for Cubo?
From the beginning, we wanted to make our product available to everyone. But as a new entrant to the market, especially right in the middle of a pandemic, we had to adapt. After some time, research and innovation, we are getting to our ideal target of providing accessible dignified housing for all. Cubo has already grown so much in terms of operations, products and services, talent and innovation, and we will continue to do so despite the challenges. You can expect a Cubo anywhere and everywhere you can build a home in the Philippines in the next few years!

See more Gen.T honourees from the Social Entrepreneurship category of the Gen.T List 2021.

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