Bamboo as a Sustainable Material of Architecture in Australia

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Bamboo as a sustainable material of architecture in australia

THEME: Material and sustainable design

ABSTRACT: Bamboo is a material that is became much more application in daily life. Architecture is one of applying scope that is increasing used. The bamboos architecture not only limit on the places such as East-Asia, South-Asia and South-America which is also increasing applied in USA and Europe such as Germany, Spain and Italy. However, bamboo as a sustainable material of architecture, the development of bamboos architecture in Australia is very slow. In Australia, there are only very less architecture that is widely applied with bamboo. Most of them just stay in the stage of bamboos flooring, furniture and decorations. Hence, this paper investigated bamboo as a sustainable material of architecture in Australia. At the first, this paper studied the advantages and disadvantages of the Bamboo and the bamboos architecture in the whole world to analysis the feasibility of bamboos architecture in Australia. After that, this research paper explore the history, recent situation, coming development of bamboo and bamboos architecture to analysis the problem that is facing and development of future. At last, this paper has a comparison between bamboo and wood and analysis that is wood became a. obstacle of the development of bamboos architecture.


Bamboo is a material that has been used for different application such as cooking, fabrics and clothing, agriculture, weapons, instruments, interior decorations and building materials. Bamboo is widely used for building material in the East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia since thousand years ago. In 21th century, place like American, Europe, start to apply bamboo in architecture and application of bamboo in architecture is increasing. Although materials like masonry, concrete and steel are the main construction materials in the recent history of architecture, there is a societal push for more sustainable architectural materials nowadays. Bamboo is an extremely durable material that has a potential to replace materials such as timber and steel. However, there are a lot of factors that is affecting the application of bamboo in the architecture. This research paper studied the characteristic, advantages and disadvantages of bamboo and examined building that is applied bamboo in the whole world. This paper also explored the history, recent situation and future development of bamboo in Australia and one example of bamboo architecture in Australia is studied. In addition, there is a comparison between Bamboo and wood.


Advantages of Bamboo

Bamboo has a good strength and durability, it can be stronger than oak, even steel, it is light and flexible at the same time and has a good water resistance (green build 2012). Bamboo has good earthquake resistance, the bamboo of buildings in Colombia still stood strong when a 6.2 earthquake was happened in January 1999 (The Permaculture Research Institute 2011). Bamboo is an environmental friendly material. Bamboo only needs 30 MJ/m3 per N/mm2, it is less than the energy requirement of concrete, steel and timber (J. Bamboo 2003). Hardwood trees release less thirty-five percentages oxygen than bamboo (Bamboo Grove Home 2008). Thus, bamboo can meet the requirement of energy efficiency that is more important in nowadays. The regeneration of bamboo only need about two to three years, so bamboo can provide a large number of resources in a short period (J. Bamboo 2003). Each part of the bamboo can be made different kind of products. So, there is only has little waste (Bamboo Grove Home 2008). One of advantages of bamboo is it low cost when it compared with other architectural materials such as concrete, timber, steel, masonry. The cost of a bamboo house is not more than 450USD in Ecuador and most of people can afford the price. The bamboo industry can also increase the employment (J. Bamboo 2003). This is one of the main reasons that bamboo can be successful applied in commercial all over the world. It is easy to build houses with bamboo because it no need require high technology to build and bamboo can be maintained and replaced anytime (Bamboo Grove Home 2008). Moreover, bamboo can grows in a wide range of climate environment such as low wetlands, arid regions, top of the mountain. Unlike other crops, bamboo no need agricultural chemicals to grow strongly (Bamboo Grove Home 2008).That is why bamboo are more natural and would not affect human health. After Harvesting, the root of the bamboo still stay in the soil, it could protect the soil and provide nutrients for the next plant (Bamboo Grove Home 2008).

Disadvantages of bamboo

Although bamboo has a lot of benefit, there are also some disadvantages. The starchy interior of bamboo always attracts to insects and it is hard to paint the surface of the bamboo due to the natural waterproof coating (Natural Building Colloquium Southwest). In addition, the right time of the harvest is important so that bamboo have the best strength and minimize erode by pests. As the damage by insects, fire, fungi and rot, bamboo also need to have a good treatment such as smoking fires in kilns and using chemical coating to keep bamboo in a high quality (green build 2012). The procedure of cutting and drying the bamboo is also important for prevent erode. As the bamboo is easy to absorb moisture, the properties of bamboo will reduce, hence, a covered and dry place is provided for the store of bamboo. Most of the stem of bamboo does not grow straight totally and the diameter and thickness of one bamboo is not the same (Minke 2012). Hence, it is hard to keep bamboo in a standard.

Bamboo buildings in the whole world

As bamboo solutions have a lot of advantages, it is not surprise that Asian and Central and South American widely integrate bamboo in their applications in daily life and culture. North American pays more attention to the application of bamboo in building (green build 2012). After the ZERI pavilion in the world EXPO 2000 is built, more European architects and engineers feel Interesting to bamboo. Ten years later, the pavilions in world EXPO show bamboo as a high-performance sustainable material (Minke 2012). Nowadays, more and more bamboo architecture appear in Europe and all around the world. Two examples are study in the following. The first example is the Vietnam Pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia in China. The building is over 10m height and the whole piece of facade and interior structures are built by bamboos (Sanchez Vidiella 2011). It shows that it is possible to apply bamboo in a large scale of architecture and it is successfully used bamboo widely in a big architecture. The second example is the Pacific Tahitian by David Sands in United Sates. It is a prefabricated house which is made by bamboo and it was assemble in Vietnam and sent it to Hawaii to build up on site. It spent two days only (Sanchez Vidiella 2011). Hence, the process of the produce is not necessary in the locals. Most of the bamboo resource of Europe and America are imported from Colombia. Countries such as German, Italy and Spain import bamboo from Colombia, Ecuador and Indonesia. Although it need cost for transportation, it is still cheaper than wood. In USA, although they have their own plantations, it is cheaper to import bamboo from Colombia or China. (Minke 2012) In conclusion, Australia has potential to plant its own bamboo and applied in architecture widely.

History of bamboo in Australia

In Australia, bamboo is not a common material compare to Asia. In Asia, bamboo is used in cooking, furniture, musical instruments, architecture, weapon, artifact……bamboo has already integrated in the society and culture of Asia. In Australia, bamboo has a bad reputation, which is acting an invaded character (The RIC Good Wood Guide 1998). Therefore, the attitude of how people treat the bamboo and the culture was affecting the development of bamboo. This is also one of the reasons why the bamboo of Australia is developing slowly. However, there are at least three indigenous bamboos in Australia and one of them has been applied in the material of an instrument over four thousand years (The RIC Good Wood Guide 1998). Unfortunately, it did not apply in buildings and used widely in daily life.

Bamboo architecture in Australia

Nowadays, most of the applications of bamboo in Australia just stay in the small scale objects such as flooring, furniture, gardening so on. There is only less large scale of architecture that is made by bamboo or widely applied bamboo as a façade or structure of architecture. There is an example. The Bamboo Loveshack is the first bamboo’s building that is designed and built by Australia’s students in Australia. The Bamboo Loveshack is a permanent architecture which is used for community at Randwick. The Loveshack shows that bamboos have potential to be an architectural material that can be applied at shelter, gazebos and houses. The Bamboo is used for Loveshack , which is come from a plantation in north-east New South Wales (Faculty of the built environment 2008). Except the doors are built with timber, most of the part of the building are made by bamboo including the part of structure (bambooroo). The scale of Loveshack is small, but it is meaningful. It shows the ability of bamboo widely applied for permanent architecture in Australia and Australia can also provide local’s bamboo for architecture.

Recent situation of bamboo in Australia

The followings are analysis about the problems and situation that is happened nowadays. Although bamboo has a lot of benefits, bamboo is hard to pass the quality assurance standards, specification standard and regulations of Australia’s government (The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia 1992). Hence, the position and support of the government is very important and it is acting an important character of the development of the bamboo. For example, even Australia provide a good environment to develop bamboo, the government can still block the development. Moreover, although the increasing of Asian people in Australia rise the needs for good quality of bamboo for different requirements of used, Australia still lack a complete set to produce mature bamboo and good quality of bamboo. The complete set including the efficiently skills of builders, the design of architect, the knowledge of engineer, the treatment, harvesting of producer (The RIC Good Wood Guide 1998). The craftsmen in Australia also do not have professional knowledge and skills for making furniture and interior decorations (The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia 1992). That means, Australia also need to train people and improve their knowledge to handle the future development of bamboo or else the situation will be the same as today. Although there are big areas of land is suitable to plant bamboo, Australia still imports different bamboo products (The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia 1992). That also means that Australia has potential to provide its own bamboo resource for architecture. Nowadays, Golden bamboo, Painted bamboo and Balcooa are three kinds of bamboos that are planted in Australia. The balcooa could be used in building and it is better than the other two (The RIC Good Wood Guide 1998). This is a example which is showing the feasibility of planting bamboo in Australia.

Future development of Bamboo in Australia

In the future, development of bamboo in Australia is optimistic. As the native timber environment become worse and reduce, the needs of bamboo will increase in Australia due to the benefits of bamboo, especially the advantage to the environment (The RIC Good Wood Guide 1998). It shows that bamboo has a potential to become a common material in Australia, it can be one of the material that is applied in architecture. As Different kind of bamboos as garden ornamentals are sold in Australia, the market of bamboo is increasing and there will be more and more applications of bamboo in the future(The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia 1992). It will promote the need of bamboo in Australia and more people will be accept and know bamboo. Hence, it also promotes the development of bamboo of architecture in Australia. The price of the bamboo furniture which is imported from South-East Asia, is expensive due to the custom and transportation charge. If Australia can produce its own bamboo furniture, it can save money. Australia absolutely has the potential and experience to produce its own products and design and produce the better one (The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia 1992). This is a good reason to develop the bamboo’s industry. Some of the organizations such as the Rainforest information Centre, the Bello Bamboo Company are promoting the applications of bamboo in daily life. It is also to form a complete set such as the promotion of the bamboo’s culture, the training of the engineer, craftsmen, architect so on (The RIC Good Wood Guide 1998). Until 2002, there are 200 hectares of bamboo plantation in Australia. However, the industry has competed with price of import.

Comparison between wood and bamboo

In Australia, timber is a common material that is used widely in different part of building, but bamboo just applied in a narrow field of architecture. In the following, bamboo and wood are compared. As bamboo is a good renewable resource, it needs only one to five years to be mature. Hardwood needs at least twenty year before it can be harvested. Some of the hardwoods like oak need over forty years to become mature (Bamboo Grove Home). Trees absorb less 40%CO2 than bamboos (green builder). In addition, some kinds of the bamboo are very strong and durable. It can have the same durability with red oak, Strand woven bamboo can even harder than red oak. ( In each week, we lost one million acres of forests in the whole world. If bamboo displaces part of the hardwood, bamboo can recover part of the forests that are lost. Bamboo can also replace wood in each field including building materials. Compare with wood, bamboo can adapt more different climate condition (Bamboo Grove Home). Hence, the market of bamboo has potential to replace timber in the future (The Archives of The Rare Fruit Council of Australia 1992).


To conclude, bamboo as a renewable, cheap, strong, flexible, durability, light good water-resistance easy to plant and build, the applications of bamboo is increasing in the daily life of the whole world, even there has some disadvantages of bamboo, those problems are trifling matter and easy to solve it. That is why more and more bamboo is applied in architecture in the world. However, impediments such as regulations, culture, import competition, skills are the unfavorable factors that are preventing the development of the bamboo architecture in Australia. Nevertheless, the future development of bamboo’s architecture is still bright as the increasing used and benefits of bamboo.

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