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The Rise of Biomaterials

The fashion industry, one of the most polluting industries in the world, is slowly adopting sustainable practices starting with the use of biomaterials. Bio-based innovative materials developed by niche companies like Pyratex and Allbirds are now being used by retail giants such as Reebok, Timberland, Adidas and Hermes.

Those plant-based alternatives have an unfair advantage over their man-made counterparts: they can sequester CO2 instead of emitting it. But in the race to reduce carbon emissions, fashion is far from being the worst culprit. Building materials and construction account for 11% of greenhouse gas emissions and just three materials  – concrete, steel, and aluminum – are responsible for 23% of total global emissions.

If there is one industry that needs systemic change to curb climate change it is the building industry, and re-evaluating the materials traditionally used in buildings is one of the most critical steps.

This means thinking beyond wood, which Mina Hasman (sustainability lead at HOM) described as “yesterday’s material”. Here are four natural materials that have the credentials to become mainstream architecture and design solutions in the next decade.

Hempcrete

HempCrete house in Witchcliffe

Hempcrete or hemplime is a biocomposite material made from a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime (from limestone), sand, or pozzolans, which is used as a material for construction and insulation. It is not as brittle as concrete so less prone to cracks and suitable for earthquake areas while being seven times lighter than concrete. It is ready to harvest in 14 weeks and can grow in any climate and soil condition making it an excellent solution to reclaim unusable land and rejuvenate poor soils. Each tonne of hemp cellulose produced absorbs up to 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide making it a valuable carbon sink. It is worth noting that hemp walls are not loadbearing but their acoustic and insulation credentials make it a sustainable option for non structural walls.

Pictured: Sativa Sanctuary – HempCrete house in Witchcliffe, WA

Bamboo Timber

Far from its original tubular shape, bamboo can now be engineered into timber-like products that outperform most hardwoods. With the tensile strength of steel and the compression strength of concrete, bamboo is a durable and sustainable alternative to timber. Contrary to most trees that require 20 to 30 years to mature, bamboo is ready to harvest in 5 to 7 years and produces 35% more oxygen and stores up to 4 times more carbon than trees. Because bamboo is technically a grass, it is not currently recognised as a solution for load bearing applications but everything cosmetic you need in timber can be made in bamboo, from cladding and flooring to fencing and shading.

Pictured: CityLife Shopping District by Zaha Hadid Architects in Milan – Engineered bamboo ceiling

Rattan

Rattan has been a staple of interior design for decades but its sustainable credentials are often overlooked. Rattan is a naturally renewable palm that grows in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia. The most unusual thing about rattan is the fact that it grows on other trees. It creeps up surrounding trees in order to reach the light. Not only does rattan need trees to grow, it cannot grow in monocultures, which means rattan production contributes to preserve biodiversity.

Pictured: Wicker Membranes by Andrea von Chrismar

Palm Timber

On the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexican architects RED Arquitectos built a screen wrapped house made almost entirely out of wood from surrounding coconut trees. Despite being naturally abundant in the area, palm timber is very rarely used for housing. Although Mexico is one of the world’s top coconut tree growing countries, the material is not available industrially and can only be sourced through artisans. Similarly to bamboo timber and hempcrete, palm timber is not (yet) suitable for loadbearing applications but using it for standalone structures such as fencing and screening alleviates the pressure put on global timber production.

“I believe that in the next couple of years, many brands won’t be able to keep using the materials they are using at the moment because there will be way more legislation,” says Regina Polanco, founder of bio-based textile manufacturer Pyratex. Regulations coupled with growing pressure from customers means specifiers have to make the switch sooner rather than later in order to familiarise themselves with the mainstream materials of tomorrow.

Biomaterials are a no brainer when it comes to construction: they reduce the overall carbon footprint, optimise the use of existing resources, restore biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration. When these biomaterials become part of mainstream commercial use, it promises to dramatically change the image and most importantly, the impact of the built environment.

Sources:

https://architecture2030.org/why-the-building-sector/

https://www.dezeen.com/2021/12/28/biomaterials-review-2021/

https://www.dezeen.com/2022/03/08/red-arquitectos-casa-numa-coconut-palm-wood-architecture-mexico/

Style Guide – Timber Slats

Functional, elegant and sustainable, timber slats tick all the boxes of a popular cladding, fencing and screening solution.

Suitable for indoor and outdoor use, slatted screens and individual battens are being used on walls, ceilings, doors, fences and screens by influential architects and designers.

Find inspiration with these four beautiful designs by female Australian architects and designers and contact us about using bamboo timber slats and slatted screens in your projects.

Peacock Street – Brave New Eco

For this extensive renovation in Brunswick West, Brave New Eco made the kitchen the focal point of the home thanks to a mix of bright colours and timber slats that add texture and warmth.

Recreate this style with our SeaChange Series® of bamboo timber slats.

San Francisco Home – Klopf Architecture

This modern home was reconfigured to create an open-concept living space that faces onto the backyard, highlighted by an architectural cladding feature on the ceiling.

Browse our slatted cladding solutions here.

The Mod and The Rocker – Rogan Nash

Our favourite feature in this project is the creative use of mismatched timber battens to create a dynamic pool fence.

Get creative with our SeaChange® Series of modern bamboo battens.

Riverlee Meeting Suite – Studio Tate

For this project in Melbourne, Studio Tate used slatted timber cladding and natural tones to create an interconnected yet soundproof environment that fosters collaboration.

Recreate this style with our Symphony Series of bamboo timber cladding.

To find out more about bamboo timber slats and slatted cladding, get in touch with House of Bamboo® Design Consultants here

Innovating With Natural Materials – 4 Women To Watch

Natural materials have been around for centuries. Hemp was found in French ruins dating back to the 6th century, bamboo has been used as a building material in China for 7,000 years while thatch has been used on roofs since as early as 5000 BC.

Today, faced with the limits of the linear economy (take, make, waste) and alarming facts about the amount of waste the construction industry produces (40% of all global waste), Architects and Designers are going back to natural materials in an effort to switch to a circular economy (take, make, reuse).

Four women are breaking the mold and crafting mind blowing creations with some of the oldest materials in the world: bamboo and rattan.

Elora Hardy – Bali

Bamboo is a family passion in the Hardy family. John Hardy is the creator of The Green Village and the Green School in Bali and his children Elora and Orin have each built on their father’s passion and created their own businesses: Ibuku for Elora and Bamboo U for Orin.

Ibuku’s mission is to innovate with natural materials to connect people with nature. The extraordinary buildings they craft almost exclusively out of bamboo are designed to wonder. With her team of Architects and Designers, Elora keeps exploring groundbreaking ways to use bamboo as a building material for houses, bridges, auditoriums, schools, hotels and more.

“Bamboo might not be for everyone, but there’s enough bamboo for everyone”.

Yasmeen Lari – Pakistan

Yasmeen Lari was the first Pakistani female architect. She rose to fame in the 80s with a series of prestigious state commissions before distancing herself from the industry in the early 2000 to focus on writing. But in 2005, a devastating earthquake killed 80,000 Pakistanis and displaced 400,000 families. Determined to help, she tirelessly taught locals how to rebuild their homes using mud, stone and wood, convinced that giving them something to do would also help them recover from the trauma.

She then started developing low cost, low waste, earthquake resistant structures using cross-braced bamboo frameworks and teaching local communities how to build them. Her prototypes were tested at the University of Karachi and found to be capable of withstanding an earthquake more than six times the strength of the 1995 Kobe disaster. She was awarded the prestigious Jane Drew Prize in 2020 as recognition of her trailblazing humanitarian work.

‘It’s not only the right of the elite to have good design”

Aurelie Hoegy – France & Mexico

Aurelie Hoegy is fascinated with movement and sustainable materials. Working from her Parisian atelier, she travels between Bali and Mexico to learn from rattan masters and collaborate on projects. Her latest project, Wild Fibres, is a range of meticulously crafted and sculptural furniture that celebrates the fluidity of rattan.

“Rattan is probably one of the most amazing materials I’ve worked with so far. It’s exceptionally flexible, soft, and extremely rigid when attached to each other. Rattan is definitely alive.”

Jennifer Snyders – Australia

Jennifer’s father, Mark, started importing bamboo products to Australia in 1972. After studying architecture, Jennifer realised bamboo’s untapped potential was a game changer for the building industry. She joined the business and developed it into the trailblazing brand it is today. 

As CEO, she continues to push the boundaries of what bamboo can do, cementing House of Bamboo® as the key player in the industry. She champions the principles of a circular economy and campaigns to make bamboo the new timber. She is passionate about creating an agricultural and manufacturing bamboo industry in Australia and founded The Bamboo Choice, an agronomy and product consulting business to further this aim.

“By choosing bamboo, you are helping support sustainable construction practices, preserve our environment and improve biodiversity. In a time where our decisions and actions matter more than ever, House of Bamboo®’s mission is to facilitate this choice by providing elegant and sustainable design solutions.” 

At a time where the impact of our design decisions matters more than ever, female architects and designers around the world are leading the way in using natural materials in unusual and innovative ways. All we need for this shift to have the impact it deserves, is for the industry to embrace natural materials as legitimate building solutions.

To find out how to incorporate more natural materials in your designs, get in touch with House of Bamboo® Design Consultants here

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