Building with Bamboo

Bamboo isn’t the first material most Americans think of to use when they need to build something, but for many countries in Asia, it’s a very common building material. I’d never pictured bamboo being used to build anything more than a little hut, but this plant has been, and still is, used for a variety of structures that are much more than huts. AP has an article about a chocolate factory being built from bamboo in Bali. It’s three stories, 23,000 square feet and is made from over 3,000 long bamboo poles. It even has a near 50-foot sloped ceiling.

Bamboo is an extremely sustainable building material, and it’s very easy to work with. After earthquakes hit Indonesia in 2009, survivors were taught how to build bamboo structures by the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI). The structures were relatively easy to construct and very durable. PMI also built these structures after an earthquake hit the same area in 2006, when building 12,500 bamboo structures cost them about $170 all together. The structures gave people shelter for about five years. It’s remarkable that a structure with such simple design and made of such a simple, cheap material would be so durable and practical. Structures like this seem perfect for people displaced by hurricans, but to benefit from the material I guess you have to be growing it nearby, and most communities in the states often threatened by hurricanes don’t grow bamboo.

In Hong Kong, bamboo has been long-used for scaffolding, and the majority of the skyscrapers in that city were built by workers using bamboo scaffolding. Although the scaffolding might have to be modified throughout the day, the video said it’s actually considered by many builders to be stronger than steel. What is so interesting about using bamboo for building is it’s an ancient material being used today in very modern ways. The skyscrapers in Hong Kong can be 80 stories high, and the city is a global city. The scaffolding isn’t used on traditional houses out in the farmlands of Asia, they’re used to build a city internationally recognized. 

In addition to its use in constructing a modern city, the flexibility and sustainability of bamboo has put it on the map as an actual material when building new, “modern” homes. Scandanavian countries are known as leaders in modern design, and the woven bamboo house designed by Danish architect Søren Korsgaard is just one futuristic example of modern bamboo construction. This article from WebEcoist shows 13 more sustainable, futuristic and modern bamboo structures. Most of the structures seem to be found in Southeast Asia, where building with bamboo has always been used traditionally in some way or another, but there is one bamboo farmhouse barn found in Indiana that made the list.

Bamboo probably isn’t practical everywhere, but the areas that can utilize bamboo  have found a material that’s as packed with functional uses as an egg is packed with vitamins. For those who don’t know, that’s a lot!


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