At NorthbyNorth we are proud that we use one of the most sustainable natural materials - bamboo. Not only do we value its aesthetic qualities, bamboo is also extremely strong, and we are constantly blown away by the different possibilities it offers. We’re interested in every ‘bamboo’!
When thinking of different uses for bamboo, garden furniture is the obvious image that springs to mind, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are in fact many uses for bamboo, from cutlery to construction material. In fact, it is the utilization of bamboo scaffolding that has really caught our imagination. It is extraordinary to think that such an ancient material and technique is the chosen method on modern-day city-centre construction projects in one of the world’s most exciting places, Hong Kong.
At first glance, the scaffolding looks like it could be the usual metal variety, but on closer inspection it becomes clear that the structure is made of traditional bamboo sticks tied together. This is a traditional method of construction used throughout Asia which dates back many centuries.
Benefits of bamboo scaffolding
The obvious benefit of using bamboo scaffolding poles is sustainability, it is a way of lowering the carbon footprint of building projects. It is also the world’s fastest growing plant which requires virtually no effort, making it a much cheaper alternative to steel.
Then there are the physical aspects of the material, it is extremely strong, durable and light weight, as opposed to steel scaffolding poles which are heavy and bulky to use. This makes transportation costs lower and logistics are simplified, as the light bamboo takes less space which means fewer truckloads. The lighter weight also makes it easier to erect, with bamboo scaffolding taking a matter of days whereas steel scaffolding can take weeks and sometimes months.
In addition, bamboo scaffolding poles can last up to seven years, after which they are often used as walk-boards, or if deemed as unsafe, they can be burned as firewood. Renewing bamboo poles is a convenient process since it is one of the fastest growing, natural materials. In other words, bamboo scaffolding poles are part of the natural sustainable cycle.
The downsides of bamboo scaffolding
Of course, this type of construction is only seen in Asia, as Western health and safety rules would not permit this type of structure, as the poles are lashed together using nylon which isn’t deemed 100% safe.
A dying profession
Bamboo scaffolding requires craftsmanship. Unfortunately, this type of scaffolding is gradually becoming less common. The skill is handed down from generation to generation and today there is only a small percentage of the younger generation who are interested in working in this field. To reignite interest, the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council offers free courses. Let’s hope that this art does not die out, and that modern construction companies continue to use this ancient method.