Green Steel or Vegetal Steel – Bamboo’s role in architecture

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Renowned architect Simon Velez traveled to India Design ID 2018 to address the guests on the main stage in February. A native of Colombia, a country with the second most-vast biodiversity on earth, likes to focus on natural building materials such as bamboo that he coined ‘green steel’ or ‘vegetal steel’ and wood for his constructions and designs.Green steel bamboo Bamboo grill - Stefana SimicSimon and his team got fascinated with bamboo as a design component. The fast-growing species of tall grass grow abundantly, fast, and cheaply and provide stunning composite material for open and semi-open spaces that blend the indoors and outdoors. Green steel bamboo bamboo-2904531_1280Bamboo grows about 1.2 meters per day or 1 millimeter per minute. It takes about three to five years for the first harvest while wood would take about 25 years. This means that about 10,000 meters of bamboo material can be produced in 20 years.Green steel bamboo 016-2-Copy bamboo earth architectureAlmost 30 years ago, fundamentalist Simon Velez and his team discovered that giant Colombian guadua bamboo can be injected with liquid cement. The cement mortar is shot into the empty bamboo chambers to make it even stronger. It will become so strong, in fact, that it supports steel plates, bolts, and screws and is a fantastic building material in architecture. Green steel bamboo Palm Treee wood roof Bogota ColombiaThe reinforced bamboo that has also been called ‘green steel’ (by Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia) provides efficient and strong connection points for outdoor structures – especially in countries where bamboo grows naturally and in lower-income, emerging, and developing markets.Green steel bamboo dezeen_Kontum-Indochine-Cafe-by-Vo-Trong-Nghia-Architects_sqbSimon Velez who has built at least 200 buildings in rural areas around the world is very environmentally-conscious. At the India Design ID, he was in good company with leading architects from India and Asia to share his views on sustainability and the movement of bamboo architecture. In a country where bamboo is considered a symbol of friendship, he fell on open ears. Green steel bamboo Crosswaters Ecologde and Spa in ChinaHe proposed to focus constructions and designs on more sustainable and balanced executions and to find mankind’s way back to ‘the treetops’ where we originally came from (not caves or ‘concrete bunkers’).Green steel bamboo Domaine-de-Boisbuchet-by-Simon-Velez_dezeen_784_11While not everything is known about the bendable ‘vegetal steel’ bamboo, it has been proven that it is stronger than actual steel. The many uses other than in construction e.g. for furniture proof the usability of the material. Green steel bamboo the-pavilions-1641171_640Other advantages are that it grows right at the door-step in some of the countries where affordable building material is most needed. Therefore, the transportation costs are lower and the carbon footprint can more easily be kept in check with local sourcing.Green steel bamboo bamboo-2205992_640Simon is not alone in using bamboo as a base material for his architectural designs. Architects Vo Trong Nghia who designed the Vietnamese pavilion at Milan Expo 2015, the China-based Penda architects who proposed a high-rise hotel, and HWCD Associates who created the cube-like Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse on a lake in Yangzhou, China, are among other advocates of the ‘arquitectura vegetariana’ as Simon calls it.Green steel bamboo bamboo-2205992_640

Green steel bamboo indiapavilion-shanghai

Green Steel bamboo 20140619110844_7507In his work, he doesn’t use plastics, asbestos cement, or drywall. The audience was mesmerized by his presentation and many examples. They were certainly inspired to also focus on the natural building material that might be easily available in their own home countries.Green steel bamboo A-00-13 bamboo earth architecture construction

Source: some photos are courtesy of Simon Velez FB, Vo Trong Nghia, HWCD, Panda, Bamboo Earth Architecture Construction.

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