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BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE WORLD: LIFE IN THE BALANCE was an international competition announced June 2006 with a February 2007 deadline. Sixty five submissions were registered which encompassed over 170 people working individually or in teams including architects, city planners, engineers, students and designers from 18 different countries - Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, China-Hong Kong, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Ireland, italy, Japan, Spain, Thailand, U.K. and the U.S. This was not a simple competition - it required deep thinking, intricate analysis, careful consideration regarding future generations - understanding the effects our actions today will have upon tomorrow, caring for our resources and beauty in the world, dealing with shifts in weather patterns which will affect agriculture - in short - the creation of a non-toxic environment that nurtures nature as well as ourselves.

To read more about the competition please visit our Competitions page.

To see the entries please click here

First Prize for $10,000 was awarded to a team from Fiji, Toby Kyle, Chris Cole and Kamineli Vuadreu.

Their project, Sustainable Urban Housing in Fiji Ė Vakabauta Village, focuses on the needs of low-income Fijians living in dilapidated temporary housing in Suva, the countryís capital. The design concept addresses global problems with local solutions, including growing bamboo within the village to green and rejuvenate the site and create revenue opportunities for residents. The team drew on traditional Fijian values such as working together and sharing resources, to create a model sustainable urban community relevant not only to Fiji but to many developing Pacific nations that are likely to be particularly hard hit by the effects of climate change.

Text on Bamboo Ė 4th October 2007

BAMBOO Ė A sustainable resource.

Core to our Vakabauta Village scheme is the growing, harvesting, treating and selling of bamboo on site. We identified bamboo as a core component of our design proposal for the sheer diversity of uses it can be applied to and for the opportunities it creates. It is a material that has been used extensively in Asia for many hundreds of years in the constructions of buildings and everyday items for living. It has also been used in Fiji and other areas of the South Pacific, but to a lesser degree.

Bamboo as building material.

Bamboo is a fast growing grass that can be harvested every 3-5 yrs. It is a durable and dimensionally stable material and the yield is up to 25 times higher than that of timber. It has a 10-30% annual increase in biomass versus 2-5% for trees, creating greater yields of raw material for use. In addition, Bamboo has a tensile strength that rivals steel and weight-to-strength ratio surpassing that of graphite, making it a very attractive building material in itís natural form.

The main draw back of the material is itís susceptibility to mould and insect attack. Bamboo acts like a straw, sucking water up in to its hollow structure. However it has a natural wax like finish to itís skin and it is relatively easy to protect the inside of the bamboo with organic treatments. These can be applied in a low-tech and non-toxic manor, making it suitable for use in developing regions.

In itís raw form bamboo can be used as the structure of a building; it can be split and used as roofing tiles; woven strands can be used as wall cladding. In more recent times bamboo, woven and stranded bamboo has been pressed together with glue to create a ply sheet suitable in itís simplest form for concrete shuttering and at itís finest a replacement hardwood floor.

Bamboo as craft.

In itís raw form, bamboo is a material that readily lends itself to a low skilled labour force. It requires only simple tools to work and simple technology to join. Mugs, mats and furniture can be crafted with few tools. It is this simplicity that makes it a very relevant material for use in developing countries. With few tools required makes bamboo can be quickly grown and provide a source or raw material for craftsmen to produce wares to sell.

Helping to create a source of income is a critical part of a sustainable community that is able to interact with the wider community.

Bamboo as a positive carbon footprint.
Bamboo is an extremely efficient replenisher of fresh air. It is the fastest growing canopy for the regreening of degraded areas and generates up to 35% more oxygen than equivalent stand of trees. These impressive statistics mean that bamboo gives it a positive carbon footprint, helping to off set carbon used in construction or living.

Bamboo in the landscape.

As a fast growing plant, it is possible to grow bamboo in the landscape to help provide screening and virtually instant greenery. However, bamboo has qualities beyond this that help rejuvenate bad soil conditions.

Bamboo is a grass and as such grows not just upwards, but outwards. New shoots sprout from the roots to create a new Ďclumpí, creating a network of interconnected plants. This network helps bond the earth and reduce the potential for essential topsoil to be washed away in big rains. In addition to this, the root network can help stabilize areas of earth prone to slippage.

While the roots hold the existing top soil in place, the relative high rate of leaf shedding helps create new layers of nutrient rich top soil. Bamboo can be used as a useful temporary planting to help improve soil quality for alternative planting. Particularly useful in contaminated urban sites.

With these diverse applications, bamboo provides for virtually every stage of the building making it a very attractive material for use in construction.

Text: Toby Kyle

Competition Sponsors
RIBA-USA were delighted that Autodesk agreed to become its main partner and sponsor for the competition.

Gibbs Smith, Publisher
To Enrich and Inspire Humankind
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