A Guide to Bamboo Scaffolding: What It is, Usage, Strength & More

What is Bamboo Scaffolding?

Bamboo scaffolding is a temporary structure commonly used in the construction industry which is made out of bamboo. Unlike other forms of scaffolding which are common in most parts of the world, bamboo scaffolding uses only bamboo and nylon straps which tie the bamboo together.

Bamboo scaffolding is used on both small projects such as small two or three story theatres, and on megastructures over 60 stories tall.

Is Bamboo Scaffolding Still Used?

Yes, bamboo scaffolding is still used. Even though it has been on the decline in recent years, one of the regions where bamboo scaffolding is commonly used is in Hong Kong.

Bamboo is used for scaffolding because it is both a lightweight and an abundant material. It weighs much less than other materials such as steel and aluminium, and can be assembled and disassembled much quicker than steel or aluminum scaffolding.

Bamboo is also one of the fastest growing materials on the planet, so it is easy to replenish, and the price is cheaper compared to other materials.

Why Does Hong Kong Use Bamboo Scaffolding?

Hong Kong uses Bamboo Scaffolding For Various Reasons:

Bamboo is readily available and because of this readily available from nearby sources, the price of bamboo is relatively cheap compared to other scaffolding alternatives.

Bamboo is lightweight. The fact that bamboo is much lighter means that more bamboo can be put on a truck when the bamboo is transported to a site.

In a city like Hong Kong, where the city is so densely populated, being able to fit more material on a smaller truck can mean huge time savings by not having to move vehicles and find places to park them. Being lightweight also means that a worker can transport more bamboo per trip up the scaffolding compared to aluminum or steel scaffolding.

Bamboo can be assembled and disassembled much quicker than steel and aluminum scaffolding. Some estimates say that a good installer can build a bamboo scaffold five or six times faster than steel or aluminum scaffold, and can take down a bamboo scaffold 10 or 12 times faster than steel or aluminum scaffold.

In a densely packed city like Hong Kong, spending less time on the site means a lot of savings in terms of labour costs.

Bamboo scaffolding is still used in Hong Kong because the know-how is still available. Hong Kong has had a tradition of using bamboo scaffolding, and thus many craftsmen are still working and are able to pass on their knowledge. This can be seen by looking at many companies, where father’s work as bamboo scaffolders and pass on their knowledge to their children.

Does China Use Bamboo Scaffolding?

Mainland China does not use bamboo scaffolding as a main building material.

Does the UK or USA Use Bamboo Scaffolding?

Bamboo Scaffolding is not used as a main building material in the UK or USA.

How Do You Make Bamboo Scaffolding?

Bamboo scaffolding is made by taking pieces of bamboo several meters long and tying them together. The pieces are tied so that they create vertical squares approximately 75 cm by 75 cm. These squares act not only as the support for the structure, but also as the ladder for the employees to move up and down the scaffolding.

The pieces of bamboo are tied together using nylon straps. A special technique is used to firmly attach the pieces of bamboo.

This process of making squares is repeated until the structure is complete. As the structure is built, it is sometimes attached or anchored to the main building under construction in order to ensure a more solid structure.

The process of disassembling bamboo scaffolding is relatively simple. The nylon straps are cut, and the pieces of bamboo are removed. Scaffolders start from the top and slowly work their way down, passing down the pieces of bamboo to other workers below who catch them and place the pieces in a neat pile and pass them down to other workers.

How Strong Is Bamboo Scaffold?

Bamboo scaffold is strong, however one of the problems when evaluating the strength of bamboo is the huge variations.

When looking at the compression strength, some types of bamboo have compression strengths around 20 N/mm2 (Gigantochloa Apus or String Bamboo), whereas some species can reach compression strengths as high as 100 N/mm2 ( Phyllostachys Edulis or Moso Bamboo). However, these are top and bottom ranges, and even the same species can obtain different results.

For this reason, the general compression strength of bamboo is normally said to be in the range of 40 to 80 N/mm2.

This compares to steel which has a compression strength of about 250 N/mm2.

Looking at tensile strength of bamboo, the variations go from 100 N/mm2 up to 200 N/mm2. The average that is commonly used is 160 N/mm2.

Steel ranges in tensile strength, however structural steel typically has a tensile strength of 400 N/mm2.

For comparison, unreinforced concrete averages a compression strength of 25Mpa, and a tensile strength of 5Mpa. However, similar to bamboo and steel, there are concrete mixes which can obtain much higher strengths, and reinforced concrete can achieve even higher results.

See more: Learn about other types of Scaffolding

Bamboo Scaffolding Facts

  • Takes approx four years to grow to the right size.
  • Thicker pieces act as diagonal braces.
  • The hollowness of bamboo prevents it from breaking.
  • Bamboo is weather sensitive, and there is a risk of rotting.
  • Sturdy weather resistant tubes are sometimes used as reinforcement to make the structure safer.
  • Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants, records being 1 meter per day.
  • Some structures over 70 stories tall have been wrapped with bamboo scaffolding.
Bamboo Scaffolding

FAQs

Is bamboo cheaper than steel?

Yes, bamboo is cheaper than steel. The cost can vary, but bamboo will cost approximately 0.09 $/foot, whereas steel can cost 4.87 $/foot. The type of steel (and the type of bamboo) can alter the exact price, but overall bamboo is significantly cheaper than steel.

Is bamboo really stronger than steel?

Bamboo can be stronger than steel, depending on the type of bamboo and the type of steel compared. However, when looking at general numbers, bamboo is not as strong as steel. Another factor that will affect the strength is how well the scaffold is constructed. In order for a bamboo scaffold to attain maximum strengths, it must be assembled by a worker who has experience in the field of bamboo scaffolding.

Does Bamboo scaffolding get upcycled?

Yes, bamboo scaffolding gets upcycled. Once the bamboo can no longer be used, the pieces of bamboo are used as walking platforms. Once they can no longer be used as walking platforms, the bamboo is burned as a source of fuel.

Alex Neumann
About Alex Neumann

Alex has spent most of his working life in the concrete and cement business. While working in these manufacturing facilities, he worked on several projects, where health and safety was always the biggest priority. Whether it be working on small ready-mix concrete sites at minus 30 degrees Celcius (-22 Farenheit), or working inside large cement manufacturing facilities, working at heights meant requiring scaffolding to reach the hard to get-to places. It also meant working in areas where a fall could be dangerous or even deadly. From these various experiences, he developed an understanding and appreciation of scaffolding.

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