Bamboo Scaffolding in Hong Kong

bamboo scaffoldingThis article about the traditional art of bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong drew me to further research on the subject. Even the casual visitor, perhaps with no particular interest in bamboo, notices the bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong. A 2008 conference paper on the subject revealed some very interesting facts.

Hong Kong has a long-standing tradition of using bamboo scaffolding for construction, renovation, repair work and signage. Bamboo scaffolding remains popular for many reasons:

  • It’s 6–8 times faster to erect than a similar metal scaffold.
  • The cost of bamboo poles is about 6% of the cost of steel poles.
  • For Hong Kong, the bamboo is cultivated in neighbouring Guangxi province, and then transported to Hong Kong along the Pearl River by lashing the poles together and floating them downstream.
  • Depending on the type of scaffolding, bamboo poles can be reused three to five times.

bamboo scaffolding, scaffoldersThe art of bamboo scaffolding has traditionally been passed on generation to generation, or through a three-year apprenticeship, with little written information. Now, apprentices can learn the skill in a year through on-the-job training or by attending a Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA) training course. After working in the industry for four years, a scaffolder can take the CITA trade test. In 2006, 268 candidates took the test and only 62% passed.

There is a steady growth in the number of written regulations, guidelines, codes, conferences and publications about bamboo scaffolding. Despite all the training and skill of Hong Kong’s bamboo scaffolders, and the code and guidelines, it’s still a dangerous job:

  • The overall accident rate in Hong is around 60 in every 1000 workers.
  • Repair and maintenance projects account for the majority of the accidents.
  • Many of the accidents in truss-out bamboo scaffolds have resulted from failures of the support bracket anchor bolts NOT the bamboo.

Bamboo scaffolding also has a role in the current democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. Professional scaffolders are lending a hand with erecting barriers and protesters are getting very creative with methods for joining the poles to create barricades.

bamboo scaffolding

Amazon and eBay have a curious selection of items related to bamboo scaffolding. Mousepads?

References and further reading:

 

Fermented Bamboo Shoots

fresh bamboo shootsFermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that promote balance of intestinal flora. And they taste good. As a recent convert to fermenting, my next step in that adventure is fermented bamboo shoots. I’m just waiting for the bamboo to shoot.

The north-east of India, with the largest stock and diversity of bamboos in India, also has many different ways of preparing fermented bamboo shoots. Traditional methods of fermentation are often supplemented with more convenient materials.

fermentation, fermented bamboo shoots Mesu
Bamboo shoots are finely chopped and pressed into a green bamboo stem. The openings are covered tightly with bamboo leaves. Left to ferment under natural anaerobic conditions for 7-10 days. Eaten as a pickle.

Soibum
Thin slices of bamboo shoots are packed into a chamber, covered with plastic sheets and pressed with weights. The bottom of the chamber is perforated to allow for draining before being left to ferment for 6-12 months.

Soidon
Entire tips of bamboo shoots are submerged in water in an earthen pot. Liquid from a previous batch is used as a starter. Leaves from garcinia pedunculata (an acidic tropical fruit related to purple mangosteen) are often added for extra flavour. Soidon is eaten as a curry or a pickle.

fermentation, fermented bamboo shootsEkung
Chopped bamboo shoots are packed into bamboo baskets, covered with leaves and sealed. Heavy stones are used to press excess water from the ferment. The baskets are buried in a pit in the forest. Ekung is fermented for 1-3 months. Eaten raw or with cooked dishes.

Eup
Dry fermented bamboo shoots are prepared in a similar manner to Ekung. After the fermentation process, the bamboo shoots are dried in the sun for 5 – 10 days. Eup is eaten as a side dish.

The information here only covers broad methods of fermenting bamboo shoots in India. I’ll post again when I find the simple recipes I want try. Do you have any you’d like to share? In the meantime, I can highly recommend books on fermentation by Sandor Katz. There are heaps of other books about fermenting on Amazon and eBay, as well as a good range of fermenting crocks, to save you the trouble of digging a hole.

References:

Bamboo on the Internet for September, 2014 – my picks

  • bamboo shoot recipesWith bamboo shoot season getting closer in the southern hemisphere, here is a timely reminder to seek out new bamboo shoot recipes. The original caption tells us that this dish hails from the north eastern states of India. The recipe for this bamboo shoot stir is here.
  • black burger, bamboo charcoal, bambooWho could resist a black burger? Images of the Japanese Burger King wonders were all over the Internet this month. Black buns, black cheese, black ketchup. Its here because the black buns are bamboo charcoal bread.
  • Bamboo bicycles are becoming more popular. I haven’t posted any here before because of their apparent ubiquity, but the DIY version looks really interesting.

bamboo sculpture, brisbane festival, cave urban, bamboo

  • This was one of the bamboo sculptures at the Brisbane Festival this year: Brisbane Airport Light Garden, a collaboration between Tony Assness and Cave Urban. Cave Urban are now calling for expressions of interest to volunteer for the 2014/2015 Woodford Folk Festival project, “Woven Cloud”. Details, and more stunning images, are on their website. Last years project, a bamboo tunnel, was featured here.
  • BOO! is a show by French trapeze artists, CirkVOSTA using a 15 metre high mobile bamboo structure. Click here for a short but mesmerizing YouTube clip of a practice session. Or watch the longer 5 minute vid of the show. Read more here.

  • Popularity can be problematic. In Burma’s northern Shan State, the forests are disappearing. Villagers seek out bamboo shoots to smoke-dry and sell to Chinese traders.  The pressures on the environment are two-fold: the foragers are taking potentially unsustainable numbers of bamboo shoots and, huge amounts of timber are needed to feed the smokehouse fires. Full story and video clip here.
  • Bamboo memory foam pillows. They’re new to me. The claims are marvellous: life span of 10 years; dust mite resistant; hypoallergenic; anti-microbial; and, machine washable…  Amazon have them and they rate 4.3 stars out of 5, but they don’t ship to Australia. eBay au had some at the time of writing.

Bamboo for social enterprise

social ent girlsHaving had some previous exposure to social enterprises, seeing this article, I was immediately struck by how apt bamboo is to base a business on that is operated for social benefit rather than shareholder profit.

Wikipedia defines a social enterprise as:

“an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.”

Bamboo covers all the bases here, brilliantly.

Human well-being

Only a modest capital investment is needed to generate a steady income from bamboo. Bamboo can create employment and training opportunities without large capital investment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that bamboo makes people happy.

Environmental well-being

Bamboo is a fast growing and sustainable resource. Agricultural chemicals are not needed. There is very little waste. All parts of bamboo can be used for something, from construction to enhancing soil. Bamboo helps retain water in the watershed and acts as a bio-filter for pollutants. But if you’ve been here before, you know all this.

Bamboo House India
social enterprise, bamboo

The co-founders of Bamboo House India

While India is undoubtedly a major producer of bamboo and bamboo products, market linkages for small producers are not easily accessible. This is especially so for tribal artisans. Social enterprise Bamboo House India is a link for small producers to the geographically diverse markets of India. The enterprise trains their artisans, provides cash advances to them to buy raw materials and, negotiates and pays wages. These producers are not at the mercy of market vagaries for their income. You can learn more about social enterprises at Social Traders, or Amazon and eBay have a good range of books available for purchase.

soc ent3 soc ent2 bamboo furniture, social enterprise, bamboo

Click on any of the images above to see more of the Bamboo House India furniture catalogue.

References:

Bamboo compost bin

After the inspirational  and motivational inaugural Bamboo Sculpture Competition in Mullumbimby recently, I got to thinking about how to use bamboo to age my current compost bin contents. I trawled through endless Google images seeking my simple solution. And it really was simple. The image to the left is what I based my compost aging bin on.

bamboo compost bins, bamboo

The original inspiration – simplicity itself

bamboo compost bin, bamboo

My version, replete with compost

First I set some bamboo stakes in a square to guide my stack and keep it more or less square. Then, I harvested several small culms of obvious age. The design I had in mind only had small gaps between the rails, so the compost would stay inside. The harvested culms were then sawed to length, and I started stacking – with a bit of tie-wire here and there to hold things together as I went. I’m rather pleased with the result.

bamboo compost bins, bambooMy research also took me to Amazon and eBay. I was surprised to discover some very sexy bamboo compost bins (pails, for some) – the ones that live in your kitchen, before the contents make the trip to the outside bin. The research also provided another revelation – bamboo charcoal deodorisers for compost bins. (I lead a sheltered life). Who leaves their compost in the kitchen that long?

 

The inaugural Bamboo Sculpture Competition

bamboo sculptureThe weekend of 6-7 September, 2014, saw the Bamboo Society of Australia (BSA) put on its first Bamboo Sculpture competition. The competition was held in conjunction with the Living Community Festival at the Mullumbimby Community Gardens (7 Sept.). The weekend was, in a nutshell, fantastic.

The comp attracted a dozen entries, each one distinctive, and diverse, in its own way. The judges must have struggled. First prize and the People’s Choice Award went to the two entries by the same creators. There are lots of images of the weekend on the BSA Facebook page.

bamboo sculptureThe event was made more fascinating for me because I was on site for the two days leading up to the exhibition. Most of the entries were so large that they were (re)constructed on site. Just by hanging about and lending a hand here and there, I picked up some useful tips on working with bamboo. On the Sunday there were also impromptu demonstrations around the BSA bamboo yurt. Pictured above is Munir from Giant Grass. Munir travelled from Melbourne to create the sculpture behind him. Here, he is showing a fascinated crowd how to bend bamboo using heat, one of the processes he used to make the sculpture of bamboo funnels.

bamboo world, victor cusackAlso present was Victor Cusack. Victor is well-known in Australia as probably our most prolific writer on Bamboo. He was on hand to promote the beautiful new edition of his book, Bamboo World. You may find it on eBay au.

It was something of a revelation for me to meet a group of people who are so passionate about bamboo and so generous with their knowledge. Really, all they talked about, with very few exceptions, was bamboo, in its innumerable manifestations – growing, collecting, constructing with, creating with… Future events are planned. Keep an eye on the BSA website.

 

Bamboo treehouse

bamboo tree house, bamboo treehouseGuadua Bamboo, rich source of practical information about bamboo, recently featured an architect-designed tree house in Columbia. The tree house started life as an idea for a small bamboo house for the grandkids, but Guadua Bamboo architect Jaime Peña suggested a tree house. He designed this stunning tree house drawing on principles of biomimetic architecture.

Biomimicry, examines nature, its models, systems, and processes for the purpose of gaining inspiration to solve human problems. Biomimetic architecture doesn’t replicate natural forms, but rather seeks to understand the rules governing those forms.

For examples in architecture think:

bamboo treehouse, sagrad familia

  • Barcelona’s Sagrada familia – columns that model the branching canopies of trees to solve statics problems in supporting the vault;
  • London’s Gherkin – inspired by the Venus Flower Basket Sponge;
  • The Eden Project in Cornwall – modelled after soap bubbles and pollen grains to construct the spherical shapes;
  • And now, this highly desirable tree house in Columbia.

bamboo treehouse, bamboo tree house“Of course, as bamboo is a natural, strong, flexible and sustainable resource, it automatically became the main building material of choice. Fractals, the golden ratio and sacred geometries, were studied, interpreted and applied in the proposal. This resulted in a spiral dome with ellipses and arcs as the basic structural geometries of the bamboo tree house.”

Biomimicry is not limited to architecture. For some fascinating examples of biomimicry in agriculture, medicine, natural cleaning and more, see Biomimcry.net.

I highly recommend viewing the images of the tree house on Guadua Bamboo. (Click on a small image to start the slide show). Breathtaking and inspirational.

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