The search for a sustainably built home has led us all over the place in the past months. We’ve been learning a lot about various green building methods and materials, from hay bales, to clay, earth ships and bamboo. We want to build a home-base in Nicaragua and decided that the giant grass, bamboo, with its fast growing ability and amazing strength, looks awesome and is the most green to use. This has lead us in search of the best bamboo, and how to use it to build something functional, sustainable and hip! Since then we’ve traveled to China, Thailand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Ecuador looking at and learning about bamboo and green building traditions.
One of the main thing we learned was that you need to start with the right kind of bamboo, not just any type will do. Guadua! This big stuff is native to Central America,and when cut and treated right will last a long time and be very strong, besides awesome to look at. There are other types of bamboo that will work (eg. Bambusa genus native to Asia), but in the Americas, Guadua is king! It should be locally available in Nicaragua and so we’re on the hunt. When it is found it needs to be harvested correctly to make it last. First, it needs to be cut based on the moon cycle at the right time of year (end of the rainy season I think). All this to limit the sugar and starch content that the bugs love. Treating it right to make it last, means aging it and soaking it with borax (sodium borate) or other salts to further thwart the hungry bugs. After its dried it can be used for building.
Building lines can be fluid and arcing, forming lines that are more like what you see in nature. However it requires different building techniques compared to wood. It can be combined with other natural building materials such as clay and thatch for the roof to create a really natural, low cost and beautiful structure (Super Steve’s awesome bathhouse on the Osa Peninsula shown below).
As I mentioned before, we’ve been researching ways to use bamboo in building and so future blog articles will cover what’s happening with bamboo in China, Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Nicaragua. We are hoping to do a trip to Columbia soon, home of some of the most advanced bamboo artisans, builders and architects on the planet. Check out the work by one of the masters, Simon Velez: