Most developed countries around the world currently rely on building materials such as concrete, metal and steel for manufacturing. In fact, we’ve grown so accustomed to them that we might not even consider using anything else. But the truth is, the long term use of these materials can have irreversible detrimental effects on our environment.
Not only do they require an immense amount of energy and resources to produce, but there is a substantial amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through this process. As our planet continues to face the challenges of climate change and global warming, it is imperative to find alternative building materials that are environmentally friendly.
One great example of this is bamboo. Although they are not yet very common in many western parts of the world, bamboo is frequently used as a building component in SouthEast Asian countries and regions of South America.
Bamboo construction is effective for a multitude of reasons, but the most important is that they are exceptionally strong and efficient. A significantly smaller mass of bamboo is required to withstand the same amount of weight compared to its steel counterpart. Their hollow structure also makes them lightweight for transportation during construction processes.
The use of bamboo, if based on best practices, will also emit 1/10th of the CO2 in the process, and also capture some of the atmospheric CO2 for the duration of its use. In fact, since it is one of the world’s most carbon absorbing plants, the UN has officially listed bamboo as part of the potential solutions for climate change mitigation.
Finally, this plant has a very fast growth rate, requiring only 3-5 years until maturation. This means that as a society, we can swiftly begin to implement their use once regulations are put in place.
In recent years, there have been several amazing buildings made primarily of bamboo. These buildings show the true structural potential of these natural steel, as well as their aesthetic beauty. Bamboo is the future material from the past. Let’s take a look at some bamboo buildings made out of them.
The Bamboo Eye Garden Pavillion
Location: Beijing international horticultural exposition, yanqing district, Beijing, China
Video: Video link
The Bamboo Eye Garden Pavillion, built between 2018-2019, is the biggest bamboo structure in North China, made of 5000 bamboo poles. Designed by the Studio Cardenas Conscious Design team for the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR), it is a highly innovative and environmentally conscious building. Since INBAR promotes the use of bamboo and rattan as sustainable building materials for the future, it was crucial to ensure that the building embodied this in its every square inch.
The result is a beautiful architecture with a curved roof made of bamboo, spanning 32 meters and melting seamlessly into the surrounding greenery. Covering more than 3100 square meters, these bamboos have undergone a process known as fire baking, which turns them golden and makes them even more resilient by extending its life to at least 30 years.
This garden pavilion is unique because not only does it focus on the use of sustainable natural materials, but they have put in efforts to minimize energy usage. The engineering and design team achieved this through creating large window panes to bring in natural light, high ventilation structures and a green roof covered with plants to regulate temperature. As a result, there is no air conditioning required and hardly any artificial light.
The bamboo eye pavilion was part of the world’s biggest horticultural exhibition, inviting thousands of visitors to come and learn about the wonderful potentials of bamboo. It delivers a powerful message, not only about the structural and environmental benefits of bamboo construction, but also that innovative design and sustainability can come hand in hand.
Image source: Pan Zhenyu for studio cardenas conscious design
Bali Green Village
Location: Jl. Tanah Ayu, Sibang Gede, Abiansemal – Badung (80352) Bali – Indonesia
Video: Video link
The Green Village in Bali is a compound made up of 12 unique bamboo houses and villas. It was designed by the IBUKU architectural team, led by Elora Hardy, the daughter of a well-renowned bamboo architect, John Hardy who co-founded the Bali Green school located nearby.
Green Village states on its website that its focus just using sustainable materials, but rather, building a community of people with an environmentally conscious mindset who come to enjoy the comforts of living alongside the Balinese nature.
What is exceptional about Green Village is that the team behind building constructions is primarily local Balinese artisans, architects, engineers and designers. They know the heritage of Bali, and beautifully infuse it into their designs made with the bamboos fully sourced from Bali and Java. Thus, the development and maintenance of this project not only contributes to sustainability goals but also to the local Balinese community.
The key lesson to take away from this example is that the use of bamboo can also be luxurious, contrary to the impression that might be left by their use in several developing countries around the world. Furthermore, it also emphasizes the importance of being mindful about the local heritage in which these buildings are built; to ensure that they educate and empower people through the process of building with bamboo so that its value is passed down laterally and vertically.
Information and Image sources:
The Bali Green School
Location: Badung, Mengwi, Indonesia
Video: Video Link
The Bali Green School, co-founded by John and Cynthia Hardy, is a ‘school of the future’ according to the World Economic Forum. Built in 2008, it educates children from all around the world to nurture environmentally conscious citizens.
Their beautiful buildings are all wall-less, and made of bamboo. Bamboo is also used in their chairs and tables for the students. However, perhaps one of the most well known features of the school campus is their magnificent bamboo bridge spanning 22 metres across the ayung river. The bridge itself was completed in 2006 before the school opened to the public.
Green campus, in its effort to implement sustainability in everything they do, also uses unique alternative energy sources, such as a hydro-powered vortex generator, several solar panels, and a bamboo sawdust hot water and cooking system.
Since the first school in Bali, they have expanded globally, most recently opening a campus in New zealand in February 2020.
Image and Information Sources:
Location: Estrada do Alto Sertão S/N, Bom Jardim , Rio de Janeiro, 28660-000, Brasil
Founded by Johan & Rosevan Lengen in 1987 near the town of Bom Jardim in Brazil, TIBA (The institute of intuitive technologies and bio-architecture) is an educational centre that used to be worn out pre-existing buildings, which had to be refurbished. The aim of the center is to educate young people about sustainable solutions for construction, architecture.
They are working on multiple bamboo architectural projects scattered around the campus, including domes made of weaved bamboos, entrance gates to the institute, a garage, a bamboo workspace, the vault, and the twister tower.
What makes this institution extremely valuable for the future of bamboo construction, is that they organize a variety of sustainability related workshops, including those by world leading architects specializing in bamboo construction. For example, Jorg Stamm, who was also involved in the supervision of the building of the Bali Green school, occasionally conducts a 4 day workshop at TIBA to educate students on how to use bamboo appropriately to maximise its potential.
Information and Image source: [https://www.tibario.com/]
The Luum Temple
Completed in 2019, the Luum temple is situated in the middle of a beautiful forest in Tulum, Mexico. Designed by Co-Lab, most of the bamboo used for its construction was sustainably farmed and sourced from the neighboring Chiapas region.
When creating and designing the structure, the engineers used highly technical parametric software, which enabled an extremely precise mapping out of all angles, measurements, and attachments - all taking into account the challenges of building with irregularly shaped unique bamboos.
The architects have explained that “Luum Temple is a showcase for sustainable development, it combines innovative design and engineering with artisanal building and organic sustainable materials,”
The result is the marvelous Luum Temple which embodies the natural beauty of bamboo in its dome-like structure made of 5 catenary structures, with repeated triangular patterns on the inside structure for strengthening purposes. This building is part of an overarching project by the Co-Lab to develop Zuum Lama, a large compound that provides spaces and activities to encourage sustainable and holistic living. Luum Temple Pavilion in particular, will be used for yoga and meditation sessions.
Information and Image Sources:
What these examples show is that bamboo is starting to catch the much deserved attention of futuristic engineers, designers and architects who are passionate about sustainability. The construction of infrastructures using natural resources such as bamboo ultimately rests on society’s willingness to be more conscious and aware about the environmental impacts of the modern-day common practices.
Recognized as the green steel of the century, bamboo harnesses immense potential for the future. It is also evident that their implementation does not compromise structural and design elements of a building, and rather enhances them.
Indeed, there are challenges associated with using bamboo, as they are naturally unique and irregular. But by overcoming these obstacles, we can fully embrace and appreciate this structurally powerful and environmentally friendly material.
Let’s hope that in the coming years, more building designs will incorporate en