Building with Bamboo: 13 Super Sustainable Structures

It’s 100% natural, thrives in diverse climates, grows up to a whopping 39 inches per day and is super-strong; why isn’t bamboo already used more often as a building material? While bamboo structures have long been common in Asia and the South Pacific, they’re only just gaining prominence in the rest of the world. From schools to disaster shelters, these 13 bamboo buildings prove just how strong, durable, eco-friendly and visually pleasing this perennial evergreen grass can be.

Water and Wind Cafe, Vietnam

(images via: vo trong nghia)

Made almost entirely of bamboo without the use of a single nail, the Water and Wind Cafe in the Binh Duong province of Vietnam is just one example of incredible bamboo structures designed by architecture firm Vo Trong Nghia. The domed structure, dripping with lights, features a dazzling skylight, with the end result resembling a natural cathedral. The bamboo was woven together using traditional Vietnamese bamboo weaving techniques and covered in a local bush plant.

Bamboo Tower, Venice, Italy

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At the edge of Venice’s grand canal, a tower of bamboo seemed to sprout up organically over a period of a week. Constructed for the Venice Biennale, Stam Studio’s Big Bambu Project involves a 50-foot nest-like bamboo tower with a spiraling walkway that leads from ground level to the pinnacle. The 2010 Big Bambu installation at the MET in New York was the “seed” for the project; the creators used 1,000 poles from that installation in the new project as well as 2,000 additional poles. Artists Doug and Mike Stam lashed the bamboo together by hand with the help of a team of rock climbers.

Green School, Bali

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Have you ever seen a school made entirely out of bamboo? The Green School in Bali is unusual in a number of ways, from its sustainable curriculum to the degree of freedom enjoyed by the students, but it is the structures themselves that are often the center of attention for visitors. The Green School chose bamboo because it’s green, renewable and very plentiful in Bali. “Frankly, it is hard to talk to students about sustainability while they are using the last piece of rainforest for their chair and their table. It is the painful truth that they are going to have to stretch to get enough rain forest timber to build their homes,” says co-founder, architect John Hardy.

Solar-Powered Bamboo House

(images via: design boom)

‘Sunshine Inn’, a solar-powered bamboo house, was made by the Chinese team from Tongli University as their official entry into the first European Solar Decathlon in Madrid. Bamboo was chosen as the main material because, as a highly renewable resource that fixes carbon into the soil, it minimizes CO2 emissions throughout the whole production phase. This beautiful structure features two curved solar panel-clad roofs and a solar-facing wall covered which is also covered in photovoltaic panels.

Bamboo House by Benjamin Garcia Saxe, Costa Rica

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Architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe created this intricate, light-filled, open-air bamboo home for his mother in Costa Rica. Being open to the air allows the house to catch every breeze that comes through, but the bamboo and roof are angled to protect against rain. Inside, a cone-shaped dome gives Saxe’s mother a view of the sun and moon, with the space protected by an umbrella-like second roof.

Mason Lane Farm, Goshen, Indiana

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This geometric bamboo structure is not located in Asia or in the tropics, but in the rather unexpected locale of Goshen, Indiana. American architecture practice De Leon & Primmer created the Mason Lane Farm Operations Facility as their entry into the 2010 World Architecture Festival. It houses farm equipment, hay and other stored goods. The bamboo stalks were laid out in a lattice grid fashion and assembled using galvanized rebar wire ties, providing perforated walls that let the wind dry the hay.

Bamboo Forest House, Taiwan

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This vacation house for an extended family in eastern Taiwan is connected on two sides to neighboring structures, but its two street-facing facades were given an eye-catching bamboo treatment that lets in light and air. This screen also provides privacy and security, and gives the feel of being in a bamboo forest when gazing out the windows from inside.

Zen-Style Bamboo Prefab Home

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Want a bamboo home of your own? A company called Bamboo Living provides prefab bamboo house kits in modern styles including ‘Zen Style Home’, a minimalist one-story design with a large front porch. Bamboo Living Homes are ICC-ES certified and have sold over 150 such structures, which have been assembled all over the world. They also build custom designs and larger eco-villages and developments.

Origami-Inspired Bamboo Folding House Concept

(images via: urbanrevision)

Designed for use as temporary shelters in the aftermath of an earthquake, these origami-inspired bamboo folding houses might just be the most elegant and artistic example of disaster housing ever produced. After a 2007 earthquake in China killed 69,000, Ming Tang was driven to create a shelter that was inexpensive, environmentally friendly and easy to produce. The pre-fabricated structures can be quickly assembled on-site and are then covered in post- and pre-consumer recycled paper for protection from the sun.

Cocoon Houses, Bali

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They may not resemble any houses you’ve ever seen, but these vertical bamboo structures could offer inexpensive housing in hard-hit places like Haiti. The design, by Saint Val Architect, marries low-tech and high-tech, using bamboo poles and x-shaped metal joints to form the ‘exoskeleton’ of each home. A circular staircase wrapping around the central support beam brings occupants to each successive floor, and canvas seals the home from the elements.

Giant Bamboo Umbrellas at a Japanese Restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia

(images via: architectoo)

The form of an umbrella served as the basis of inspiration for the bamboo structures that make up the Outdoor Japanese Noodle Restaurant in Jakarta. Designed to be temporary and simple to disassemble, the bamboo umbrellas overlap each other to become one big roof, protecting guests from sun, wind and rain. Rainwater is diverted through bamboo ‘gutters’, poured into the ground through a pipe in the middle of the structure.

Bird-Like Amphitheater, Hanoi, Vietnam

(images via: world architecture news)

Also by Vo Trong Nghia is ‘Bird Wing’, an avian-like bamboo building used for fashion shows, live music, conferences and other public activities. Set beside a pond, the wing-inspired design of the amphitheater paired with the organic, eco-friendly qualities of the chosen material is a fitting tribute to the natural beauty of the setting. It’s made only from bamboo and rope, with no metal or other types of wood used in the construction.

Bamboo Manta Ray Dome, Thailand

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Could you guess the sea creature that inspired the shape of this bamboo building, even if it weren’t in the name? Seeming to soar through the sky just as a manta ray gently floats beneath the surface of the sea, the Children’s Activity and Learning Center at the 6-star Soneva Kiri resort in Thailand fits in beautifully with its lush tropical surroundings.

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