This 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.
The 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.
References and further reading:
- Ramanathan, M. (2008, November). Hong Kong–bastion of bamboo scaffolding. In Proceedings of the ICE-Civil Engineering (Vol. 161, No. 4, pp. 177-183). Thomas Telford.
- Code of Practice for Bamboo Scaffolding Safety
- Guidelines on the design and construction of bamboo scaffolds