The Future of Bamboo

Lights and Shadows of a Sustainable Material

Tim Coleridge 

Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Restaurante, Son La (Vietnam)

Recently launched conceptual designs for 360-meter-tall bamboo skyscrapers from a team of Paul Runaghan of Farrells and Jim Fleming of Buro Happold offer an exciting new use of a traditional material hailed as a ‘green steel.’ However, a simplistic rush for bamboo risks causing wider threats to ecologies, societies and the climate in Asia and beyond.

Boldly but questionably touted as an uber-environmentally-conscientious building material, bamboo’s popularity as a wood and fibre substitute has been increasing. Its versatility is exemplified in myriad applications including papermaking, fuel, clothing, furniture, and medicines. It is estimated that over one billion people live in traditional bamboo houses, and bamboo is utilised in many building components from scaffolding, roofing, flooring, exterior walls and partitions to doors and window frames. However, contemporary rhetoric supporting the environmental credentials of bamboo is unquestioningly focused on its speed of growth...

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