From one grand green idea an entire movement has sprung forth on the island of Bali. First it was a bamboo green school followed by an eco-friendly luxury resort comprised of bamboo villas and now the crowning achievement in this trend is the “bamboo cathedral,” the world’s largest bamboo commercial structure.
Though it’s located by an ancient Hindu temple, the building is intended for something just short of divine – a chocolate factory!
Constructed from 3,000 bamboo poles, the building itself is a three-story, 23,000 square feet and has an incredibly graceful sloping ceiling to complete the cathedral effect.
The bamboo building boom has attracted entrepreneurs, local craftsman, international architects and environmentalists alike to the island of Bali. Not only is the raw material an incredibly sustainable one growing to the height of a traditional oak tree in less than six months but it can also be harvested quickly for use in as early as five years. Even better for business owners and architects alike is that the abundant bamboo that is as strong as steel but flexible as a yoga master costs roughly $3 to plant and maintain.
It also represents a design challenge to those always seeking to challenge themselves. Explains Elora Hardy, the creative director at Green Village (the eco-friendly luxury resort):
“We’re really comfortable in our culture and in architecture with straight lines. And bamboo is not a straight line,” she says. “We have to really keep in mind the curve…where it’s going to end up at the top.”
The continuity in design is equally important as some poles start in the earth and rise up three floors.
So is this a trend that may start growing in the West? Well, more than likely not until the West decides to grow its own bamboo. The use of bamboo in the tropics is a practical choice because of its availability and affordability. However, bamboo construction is still in its infancy and unlikely to stand up to building code requirements in Europe and the United States. The use of bamboo as a building material in a constant state of change as builders are still experimenting with design and treatments but if it were a domestic crop, it would be easier to certify and maintain.
Gove DePuy, a sustainability planner living in Bali, explains:
”When you manufacture bamboo into a product, it can be tested. It can be given certifications,” he said, using flooring as an example. “But if you’re just picking bamboo, cutting it down and putting it up, you’ve left the certification to nature.”
So while bamboo building is a trend growing among countries such as Vietnam and China (incidentally the world’s leading bamboo producer) the western part of the globe will have to be content with the availability of bamboo flooring, bamboo clothing and bamboo bedding for their homes.
In the meantime, the bamboo cathedral will soon start churning out organic chocolate bars, a product perfectly fit for such an eco-friendly and heavenly setting.