Green steel

Issue 85 - January | February 2020

The Austrian Markus Roselieb builds buildings out of bamboo in Thailand, a "fascinating building material with an image problem".

Markus Roselieb, Chiangmai Life Architects
Why are you building with bamboo? 

Rose loveThere is a lot to be said for bamboo: it is a reinforced tube made by nature that binds emissions during production and thus cleans the planet. Those who are familiar with it can use it for everything that steel is used for. For example, I rely on half-timbered buildings made of bundled, particularly fiber-rich bamboo tubes, and use them to build halls with a width of up to XNUMX meters that survive earthquakes and storms. 

Where do you get the bamboo from?

Roselieb: I need six types of bamboo that I buy from the Chiang Mai area. However, there are hardly any plantations in Thailand. Bamboo can be harvested from community forests that manage the villages. There was initially a lack of know-how, such as how to choose and cut bamboo correctly. But a lot is happening. There is growing awareness in Thailand that bamboo is an important resource.

Who are your customers?

Roselieb: I design for clients from Panama to China and build in Thailand. It is primarily members of the upper middle class who are interested in bamboo. The average citizen still lacks the openness to take alternative materials seriously. There is a lot to be said for this. For example, normal roofs need insulation and a ceiling over them to make them look nicer. Since the air cannot circulate in this way, air conditioning is required. It's easier with bamboo roofs: the material is insulating and looks good, so you get high rooms with pleasant air circulation. Unfortunately, bamboo has a bad reputation due to improper use. I hope that my projects will serve as role models so that bamboo becomes more suitable for the masses. Above all, to counteract the overexploitation of other natural resources.

Can you build with bamboo outside the tropics?

Roselieb: Naturally. Bamboo structures have a long tradition in cooler Japan and China. With expertise, it can therefore be used anywhere. Perhaps less in the natural hollow shape that I prefer, but more in the form of industrially processed components. The key is to get the material out of the hippie corner and make it attractive for the user of the 21st century.

Many thanks for the interview!

Photo: Chiangmai Life Architects

To the main story

Bamboo: grandiose grass

Not only pandas and panpipe players appreciate bamboo: the plant is a sought-after raw material for products as diverse as socks and toothbrushes, dashboards and parquet floors, scaffolding and wind turbines.