Category Archives: Building and Home Renovation

Bamboo in architecture, building and construction, and home renovation

More on treating bamboo

During a recent visit to northern NSW I stayed at Bonza Bamboo and had the opportunity to cut some bamboo, and the time to treat it. There was also the opportunity to call in to Byron Bamboo, in nearby Tyagarah.

While Lance and Carolyn were away exhibiting at Strand Ephemera 2015, I was holding the fort at Bonza Bamboo and cutting and treating some of their bamboo to take away with me. Some poles were left standing with the solution inside for 3 weeks. For others, I availed myself to Lance’s simple and efficient PVC storm water pipe method. This is ideally suited for bamboo splits and very small diameter poles.

45 degree stormwater junction at one end

45 degree stormwater junction at one end

PVC storm water pipe of varying lengths, as seen in the photos, are fitted at one end with a 45 degree junction. Both ends are capped with a screw fitting. The lower part of the junction facilitates the loading of the bamboo. Once the bamboo is loaded the cap is screwed on. The upper facing part of the junction is where the preservation solution is poured in. The other end of the storm has an inline tap fitted into an end cap. In Lance’s system, this drains to a large drum that sits at a level below the PVC pipes to use gravity to empty the pipes after the treatment is complete.

bamboo treatment

… inline tap at the other end

All the parts to make this treatment system are readily available at your local hardware or plumbing suppliers. I couldn’t locate any 90mm fittings on eBay, but there are some  inline taps there.

Once treatment was underway I was keen to visit Byron Bamboo to follow up on the experiments they were undertaking with Freemite after the workshop in January this year. The product showed such promise as an effective and natural method to treat bamboo. Kaye is still awaiting test results for Freemite from UTS, but she did have some comments after trying the product. There were some major concerns:

  • The cost: It is an expensive product and, once diluted for use, is only effective for a month.
  • It’s very strong chilli content makes it dangerous to skin and eyes. It has a real burning effect, so from a WHS point of view here in oz it wouldn’t be deemed safe.

Ultimately, she has returned to using soluble boron, Dissolvabor, like Lance.

 

Bamboo on the Internet for April, 2015 (and May)

A very late Bamboo on the Internet, but with some very fine excuses. Really. Some of them may even be translated into posts for this blog.

  • Two more items for a bamboo WTF category: Bamboo water. Yes. Water infused with an extract from bamboo leaves. Variously described with words like, “clean, fresh, bright, energising, sweet…” the creator has chosen to add cane sugar, unfortunately. Learn more here.  The second, and more perplexing bamboo product is Gucci’s Bamboo Fragrance. Presumably named for the bamboo shaped lid, not the top notes of bergamont.
  • furnitureThe bamboo furniture seen at the left is simplicity personified. Follow the link for a gallery of 14 more images.
  • I know how handy bamboo skewers are for fixing/supporting/balancing/holding, even though I’ve never used them as skewers. This model of the Eiffel Tower used over 200 of them.
  • Bamboo fences are very popular in northern NSW, where I was earlier this year, but how about a bamboo fence 11 kilometers long? Its part of a competition to promote the use of bamboo fences in Sabah.
  • Froute PodMore gorgeous, practical, and innovative ideas from Giant Grass, in Melbourne. It may be just the thing if you want to be an airbnb host and don’t have that extra room for guests. The pod is transportable and easy to set up with only 2 people.
  • Bamboo charcoal is now a trendy go-to ingredient for cocktails, according to The Drinks Business.
  • vietnam milan expoThe Vietnam pavilion for the 2015 Milan Expo features a ‘forest’ of bamboo-clad columns. More images and a story at arch daily.
  • Here is a lovely, and short, story about a Buddhist monk in Vietnam who saves rare bamboo species.
  • The Huffington Post recently published a photoblog featuring colourful bamboo and paper umbrellas.
  • pickled bambooSome food items of interest over the last two months include: a bamboo shoot and squid flavored with green leaf-bud miso dish from Asahi Shimbun; a recipe for pickled bamboo from a new book (available from Amazon) reviewed here; and, I was going to include a video called ‘bamboo cooking‘ but it turned out to be only a very poor interview to promote the bamboo water mentioned above. It’s so dreadful, it’s almost worth watching.

Modified Boucherie preservation treatment for bamboo

The Boucherie method or process for treating bamboo poles looks like a complex method at first blush. With a little thought, however, it can be a simple and straightforward way to protect bamboo from insect infestation and greatly extend the life of bamboo poles.

boucherie systemSimple searches on the Boucherie method commonly turn up treatment methods calling for an air compressor. But we don’t all have air compressors in our sheds. Also, after spending a day along side the innovative Lance of Bonza Bamboo, I have learnt that the initial set up of a Boucherie treatment process with an air compressor can be fraught with unexpected glitches compared with a simple gravity fed system. This post describes a simple modified Boucherie treatment developed by Lance using gravity and readily available garden and plumbing fittings.

Firstly, decide on the preservation liquid you want to use to replace the sap in the bamboo with. Lance uses an easily dissolvable form of borate (disodium octaborate pentahydrate). You might like to experiment with the Freemite product that was demonstrated in at Byron Bamboo last month.

20150206_114306_compressed_againSecondly, construct a manifold that has a garden hose fitting at one end and cuff that slides over the bamboo at the other end. The manifold needs to have a small release value (like a bicycle valve) incorporated in the design to release pressure . (Alternatively, you can probably buy a customisable manifold from Lance for about a hundred bucks. Contact Bonza Bamboo here.)

bamboo, boucherie methodThirdly, set up a drum, with a garden hose attached to it, at height. The drum will hold your chosen preservation fluid. The height will dictate the pressure you can achieve, and thus the time it takes to displace the sap. Janssen, in his book Building with Bamboo: a handbook, (on Amazon and eBay) suggests that a head height of 4-6 metres is adequate to get the preservation liquid flowing. Lance got about 6 ½ psi at a head height of about 5.5 metres. (This happens to be the reachable height from a ladder in the loft of his shed).

When this is all ready to go, cut the bamboo you wish to preserve. Fresh is best. Attach the hose from the drum to the manifold and attach the manifold to the bamboo. Then wait. Yes, it’s slow, but you can walk away from it without fear of blow-outs, poles blowing over in the wind, or anything else going awry. The system is easily expandable to treat up to 10 poles from the one raised drum.

On the day I followed Lance around his shed, it took about five hours to treat a four-year old, 4 metre length of B. oldhamii with a diameter of about 95 mm.

Treating Bamboo

bamboo borer beetleLast weekend Byron Bamboo and the Bamboo Society of Australia hosted a bamboo treatment workshop. Bamboo is fine strong material for construction but does need some kind of treatment to protect the timber against insect damage and infestation.

The two most common treatments are probably solutions of borax and copper sulfate. Copper sulfate can be purchased on eBay or Amazon, and borax is available on eBay. The workshop, however, focused primarily on the Indonesian product Freemite. Freemite is an organic pesticide and termite treatment. It contains neem, borax, chilli, camphor, and a number of other plant extracts. The product developer, Theirry, gave a lengthy presentation about the product and how his team use it in Bali to treat bamboo poles on a large scale. Solution left over after bamboo treatment is also used as insect spray and insecticide in the home and garden.

bamboo boucherie

Setting up for the Boucherie method

At the workshop it became clear that here in Australia the choice of borax or copper sulfate varied. Participants seemed to agree though that the simplest method of infusion was by transpiration. Little equipment is needed, just a bucket really. Freshly cut bamboo is placed upright in a bucket of the chosen solution and the natural actions of nature replace the sap with the treatment solution. Another method is the Boucherie method, where the sap in the bamboo is replaced by pressure. While not too complex, a special set up is needed.

transpiration method bambooIn Bali, the Freemite crew treat bamboo poles by submersing them in long, narrow concrete tanks filled with the Freemite solution. No experimentation seems to have been done there with the simple transpiration method. Perhaps because of the industrial scale of the operations in Bali. Some BSA members undertook to experiment with Freemite using the transpiration method. The resulting treated poles will be tested at the University of Technology, Sydney to establish how effective the transpiration method is using Freemite. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the results here in due course.

 

Bamboo activism

Going about in Taiwan, like other countries with an abundance of bamboo, it is inspiring to be amongst bamboo creations from the mundane to the extraordinary. This post is about a once-ordinary, now less common bamboo construction being used to promote autonomous rule for the Amis village of Farangaw, Taitung County.

bamboo boat, bamboo raftIn the south of Taiwan, a bamboo boat is under construction employing techniques unused since the Japanese occupation 100 years ago. The traditional techniques are recalled only in oral history by five Amis elders in their 70s and 80s. The maiden voyage of the bamboo vessel will be an inspection to lay claim to the village’s traditional maritime territories, as well as rally support more generally for Aboriginal autonomy in Taiwan.

The Amis are the largest ethnic group among Aboriginal Taiwanese. Traditionally, Amis villages are in close proximity to the sea. As well close ties to the ocean, bamboo features in Amis material and spiritual culture. One Amis spiritual practice is performed by bamboo divinators. The cikawasay (like priests) predict fortunes by standing on the middle of a slim bamboo branch and lifting both ends of it. The fortune is foretold according to the shape of the cracking gap in the bamboo.

bamboo pavilion, Amis autonomy

Considered experts in bamboo construction, local Amis built this pavilion used for an arts festival.

There is something of a resurgence in traditions and cultural identity for Taiwan’s Aboriginal population, though perhaps not bamboo divination. An increasing number of Amis are replacing their Chinese names with Amis names. Aboriginal political and social movements are swelling. Drafts of legislation for Aboriginal autonomy, already drawn out for years, are always strongly criticised by Aboriginal activist groups and academics. But what a behemoth they face in China.

bamboo raft, bamboo boatIn the course of researching this post I came across a boat in Taiwan based on the traditional design of a bamboo raft such as the one pictured above. Instead of using bamboo, huge PVC pipes were incorporated into the design. The pipes were bent the same way as bamboo – with heat. The vessels take only about six days to build. The story and more images here. Perhaps the Farangaw villagers should have considered PVC instead of bamboo: some were accused by local authorities of stealing bamboo to make the raft.

References and further reading:

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:

 

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.

References: