You may have heard about the use of bamboo in the temporary shelters created in humanitarian aid efforts after an earthquake, but bamboo can actually be very valuable in the construction of buildings that can withstand earthquakes. Why should we look towards bamboo as a temporary solution after a disaster when we could save lives by building with it in the first place? Bamboo is a great option for building homes and shelters in earthquake-prone regions, given that the structures are well designed, constructed, and maintained. From old traditional structures to modern builds, several examples from across the globe have proven themselves against the very forces of nature that have brought down concrete and brick buildings.
Bamboo U: The Latest Architecture and News
Roofings are perhaps the most fundamental architectural element of bamboo buildings (together with foundations). Well-designed and built roofs play a key role in protecting a bamboo structure whilst adding to the beauty and experience of the space. What qualifies as a well-designed bamboo roof?
There are a couple of key elements that need to be considered: 1) the overhangs of the roof to mitigate the weathering of bamboo poles from direct sun and rain, 2) the pitch of the roof for water flow, 3) the spacing of the rafters for rigidity, and finally, 4) the material used. In Bali, we have experimented with many different roofing materials and techniques. In this article, we share 5 of the most commonly used roofing systems for our bamboo buildings:
Tradition and innovation. Those are the two pillars within which Bamboo U's workshop’s creative pendulum strives to swing. Following the practice of ancient Mongolian yurts, participants of Bamboo U, a build and design course in Bali, have created a bamboo yurt which can fold like an umbrella and can be deployed in an instant. Under the guidance of the German master-builder Jörg Stamm, students built the first retractable yurt prototype in Bali during Bamboo U’s last edition in April.
As a construction material, bamboo is resistant, versatile, grows rapidly and is immensely friendly with its own ecosystem and its agroforestry environment. In addition, it presents a large number of species that deliver different diameters and heights. But are there also variations in its color?
We are truly impressed with the work of architects, builders, and artisans who use 'blond bamboo,' which moves between yellow and brown tones. These species are abundant and easy to harvest, and therefore are more common and accessible. However, there are a number of species that have a darker coloration and could revolutionize bamboo architecture in the future. Here we present black bamboo.
"Bamboo is close to an ideal structural material." This statement by Neil Thomas during his talk at Bamboo U, which took place in November 2017 in Bali, really caught my attention. Neil is the founding director of atelier one, a London office of structural engineering, whose outstanding projects include stage and scenography for the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and U2; art installations by Anish Kapoor and Marc Quinn; the Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore, among many others. From the last few years, the engineer has exhaustively studied about bamboo, its structural properties and its most diverse potential.
By recognizing and analyzing the multiple architectural possibilities of bamboo—a construction material mostly native to warm and tropical areas—the following questions arise: How can we take advantage of its qualities and enhance its use in colder climates? Such regions necessarily require a certain level of thermal isolation in walls, floors, and roofs—but for these climates, we can combine bamboo with materials that complement it.
We talked with Penny Livingston-Stark, a designer and professor of permaculture who has worked for 25 years in the field of regenerative design based on non-toxic natural materials, to understand the opportunities offered by combining bamboo with earth.
Earthen construction and bamboo are extremely compatible. They offer different capacities. They compliment each other beautifully. They both require the same conditions, like breathability.
Each material has its own peculiarities and, when using it for building, the design and construction process must accommodate these characteristics. A steel-framed building, for example, must be designed with a certain level of accuracy so that components and parts, usually manufactured off-site, fit together during assembly. A wooden building can have its cross sections drastically modified according to the species and strength of the wood used, or even according to the direction of the loads in relation to their fibers. With bamboo, no pole is exactly the same and each one tapers and curves differently, which requires a different approach when designing and building.
But how is it possible to work with a material with so many challenges and possibilities?
The main objective of the BambooU build and design course is to promote bamboo as a green building material, and to provide tools to architects, designers, builders, engineers, and carpenters from all over the world to value this material and increase its use.
The 2017 version of the course invited its participants to be part of a basic carpentry workshop, in which Indonesian artisans—led by I Ketut Mokoh Sumerta—taught them to build the base of a simple structure in Bamboo, without using other materials and by experimenting with the cutting and joining of different pieces.
See the process of this construction below.