Constructing with Bamboo – REALLY?
Had you suggested to Ally or myself two years ago, that we’d be hosting a Constructing with Bamboo Timber workshop in New Norfolk, we may have called the men in white coats. It’s not something my generation (Baby Boomers) or their Western World predecessors would have considered even remotely possible, much less viable.
Enlightenment, however, comes in many shapes and forms. Since discovering that Bamboo is so much more than an invasive weed that took months to eradicate from our backyard in suburban Newcastle, Australia; we’ve embraced the reality that the times are indeed a changin.
Comes a Time (thanks Neil Young ) when the light bulb illuminates and you wonder how you have overlooked the glaringly obvious ‘elephant in the room’. We had that with Bamboo, only a short couple of years ago and the light gets brighter every day. Without getting too deeply into the saving the planet debate, I think it’s safe to say that Bamboo has credentials as at least a plant that will do no harm.
That very understated fact is not really the point of this article, however – rather, it’s the scope of the plant as a building material that holds center stage here. Who’d have thought that ‘giant grass’ would captivate the interest of Architects and Engineers all over the world, seeking answers in this 21st century, to recommending and indeed sourcing, material suitable for contemporary architecture that is both sustainable (in terms of maintaining supply without causing more environmental disaster) and renewable to ensure ongoing viability?
My research into this subject began in reverse if you like, only after I discovered that Bamboo had many other attributes. The potential as a fibre, food source, screen for all sorts of scenarios, windbreak, and biofuel first tweaked my interest to be fair. As I dug a little deeper, I watched a couple of TED talks that added a whole new dimension and frankly – what I learned as a result, blew me away. I’m very glad to share those talks with you here. The first is by a structural engineer David Trujillo who makes a compelling case for Bamboo structurally. The second is a story – a true story to be sure but its author is compelling and so is its inspirational message .
You’d have to rank me among the seeming minority of Aussies who aren’t Bali fans – well, the climate (give me Tassie any day) and hubbub parts to be fair but there’s definitely parts of the leisure isle that attract me. Not surprisingly, they are the parts where the bamboo artisans ply their trade. Not that I managed to on this month’s trip but if you’ve visited places like Green Village or one of the ample Retreats & Spas dotted around the Ubud Region, you can’t help but marvel at what architects and engineers have conjured, to make Bamboo work, as a construction material.
We’ve all gasped at the famous Bamboo scaffold of, in particular, the modern city of Hong Kong but most have probably not pondered long enough to discover the WHY? Lighter, cheaper, stronger, easier are just some of the reasons Bamboo is STILL used for this purpose today. Eco-friendly, renewable, sustainable, zero carbon footprint can be added if you’re at all concerned that the scientists have got the global warming issue right!
So, when I look at what pioneering architectural & design companies like Ibuku are doing in Bali and around the world, I am encouraged to drive harder. Then, when I see The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan – an independent intergovernmental organization established in 1997 to develop and promote innovative solutions to poverty and environmental sustainability using bamboo and rattan, I feel inspired. What INBAR are doing to promote and develop a more sustainable world using Bamboo as a construction material, leads me to ask “can I be a part of that and contribute something to the planet” (certainly I’ve taken enough from it) – the answer has to be a resounding yes.
Understanding what that looks like on the ground is an interesting challenge and we’re exploring ways and means to achieve a goal that becomes clearer as temperatures get higher and governments appear in denial. We need to stand up and do our bit by continuing to spread the word that claims of Bamboo can save the planet aren’t as bold as they may seem. Bamboo Van Diemen therefore, are on a mission to get as much Bamboo into the ground and encourage landholders and urban dwellers alike to at least consider and research a little to perhaps follow suit on any scale, thereby enabling Tasmania to become part of the future of construction, NOT the past of DEstruction.