Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bamboo, Emergency & Low income Housing

Much of what life brings us is the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate. Shelter, especially for the poor can easily and efficiently supplied with bamboo. This concept has been explored by the greatest influences in the bamboo construction field, as most believe this highest and best use of bamboo, especially our friends in South America Like Marcelo Villegas . Today much of what has come into the realm of bamboo construction has been very elaborate and ornate structures (see koolbamboo.com), and create a void in the idea that bamboo is material for the impoverished. The rediscovery of bamboo as a high tech material, especially Guadua Bamboo, has brought about the secondary effect of peaking the interest in people who are devoted to the development of low income housing. Our partners at Guadua Tech, made the decision to submit a design to Un techo Para Mi paiz , in order to develop a pod style kit home /emergency shelter.The first housing structure that Guadua Tech designed, for a completely unrelated low income housing project was not cost effective for the specifications laid out by Un Techo Para Mi Paiz . The second and final design incorporates recycled plastic panels with Esterillia (Guadua bamboo Poles broken into sheets) , Esterillia ply wood panels, and the Guadua Tech ends. The final model easily assembles in 4-6 hours, it comes in a box and weighs less than a ton. The representaives of Un techo Para Mi paiz gave the structure its first look a couple of months ago and showed great interest in it. The technologies used in this design are cutting edge in the field of bamboo. The Guadua Tech end is the only patented bamboo connection system that utilizes Guadua Bamboo Poles from the extreme ends so as to reduce redundancy in design. Esterillia Bamboo sheets are manufactured like ply wood using Guadua Bamboo poles ( a renewable resource) in a modern factory with high heat and pressure. The recycled boards are a combination of recycled plastic tin foil and paper pressed with heat in a form to create roofing panels. This innovative structure has a very broad appeal for the victims of disaster, housing for poor and the not so poor people who recognize the versatility of such a structure.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bamboo the Journey Home

The strange path of my life leads me down several roads filled with interesting intersections,a roundabout here and there a slow ride down a new street, yet some how I always end up back where I began in a different dimension of course.
Like the Tardis in Dr. Who my bamboo journey can be attributed to many intersections. Koolbamboo.com my little company, the crazy idea turned full time endeavor. I have faced this question several times in my illustrious career in "The Bamboo Business". It seems that when people see what I am up to and how much I enjoy my work they feel compelled to ask the question of the origin of my company.

As the child of of a Colombian mother (check her blog out) and American father, international lawyer who enamored with cars and challenging roads always seemed to pick the less traveled road, not because it was less traveled but because the scenery seemed that much better and just on the other side of the hill, oh by the way we will be there very soon so put on your seat belt and don't distract the driver. My father a skilled driver would take some poor station wagon and modify it without my mothers permission then drive it so fiercely that the motor would end up exploding at a very inopportune time. The replacement motor would be some much larger displacement with polished this and ported that. When traveling to Colombia he would always look for the highest displacement car that would fit 6 Americans and go off though the country side from little town to little town my mother offering her historical references along the way.The view from a child's perspective... that of fear in the face of death as looking down some precariously high mountain roads if you can call them that, as father passed some slow moving donkey Cart. Imagine people in Dade County having to be patient enough to pass a donkey cart filled with coffee beans. The mountains and scenery of that country at the time were lost to us as children we were all obsessed with being Americans at least North Americans, the inventors of Rock and Roll hey we just went to the moon just a few years earlier,.Didn't we? Living in the United States as a child in the 70s was indeed a great experience, even though at the time the expenditure of resources did not seem to have the impact of today. We did live in the Bahamas for a while and there was never any need for sunscreen. In contrast today 30 min in the sun equals severe burning. The climate was noticeably less severe than today. We did live in the Bahamas for a while and there was never any need for sunscreen. In contrast today 30 min in the sun equals severe burning.When I was younger a teenager I don't think I appreciated the Andes mountains as much as I do today. Foolishly I just wanted to be back home in Miami with my friends . As children we were proud of the U.S. we had no idea we would be present at the beginning of the greatest challenge this planet has ever faced. However a card reading by some cheesy soothsayer at a school fair proclaimed I would work out side and it would be something to do with the environment. I did cut lawns for some time but surely that was not my calling.That idea stuck with me for many years. It wasn't till my brothers became teenagers and mind expansion became popular that anyone in my family would dare to question the politics and energy usage of this great nation. Then one day in 1976 or so I remember No Fuel, gas lines Jimmy Carter on T.V. Even as a child I knew that we were polluting the planet, remember the the crying "Native American" ( got to be PC these days) Its curious in South America, Europe the cars got smaller in the U.S. bigger homes bigger cars bigger people. For some reason at this time at a very young age I knew I had to contribute to a greener world so I planted these "tomato seeds" I found in my possession after my success with pineapple tops was noted by my siblings. Its very strange those tomato plants diapered one day.Fast forward a couple of decades the very worst hurricane to hit the U.S. Andrew takes out every tree every bush. To me, Hurricane Andrew is a significant point in a climatic shift on this planet as seen from the eyes of a South Floridian. This was a killer storm the first seen in several decades, it completely demolished Homestead and Florida City. The wrath of this storm destroyed countless homes property. The days after that were the hottest most humid I can remember. I had friends in the tree business who would tell me all you have to do is cut a branch off of a gumbo limbo plant and you would have a tree...this was amazing and because we had no shade I planted ever gumbo limbo stick I could lay my hands on. My previous experience with tomato plants and pineapple tops encouraged me to replant the wind blown desert that used to be a jungle. Even my friends got trees planted in their yards as gumbo limbo has soft wood there was no shortage after the winds of Andrew. Shade became a commodity ..enter bamboo I discovered at the American Bamboo Society sale at Fairchild Tropical Garden Plant plus water, watch it grow, amazing!! A few years later at the invitation of a friend I revisited Colombia for the first time in 20 years.We were traveling to a small farm El Ranchito and passed through a town called Guaduas, a name I recalled quickly from the bamboo collection at the tropical garden. The first time I saw Guadua Angustifolia at Fairchild Tropical garden I fearlessly approached and it greeted me with as its saber like thorns that quickly attached to my clothing like the tentacles of an octopus reaching to grab its pray. I have been attached to Guadua Angustifolia ever since. On that particular trip to Colombia I picked up a Book called Tropical Bamboo by Marcelo Villegas . The book shows every possible use of Guadua Bamboo poles and inspired my good friend Stew Mcleod (also a founder of Koolbamboo) and I to attempt a structure out of bamboo. The earliest examples of Simon Velez work totally drove us to seek out this material so we created Big Bamboo Trading Company Inc. 2001 when we could not find a supplier of this material. This material is so important because of its renew ability, flexibility, strength and beauty. Structures built out of the material have sustained severe earthquakes.Koolbamboo.com has been committed to offering the very finest materials available including furniture, Guadua Bamboo Poles, Fencing, Kit structures. This path has led me back to my Colombian roots as I have traveled there quite often and rediscovered its most valuable resource, its inhabitants my family included. Today I am proud to come from such a rich dual heritage a very winding road, a thorny path at times. Guadua Angustifolia has become a very important material as it too has been rediscovered by the modern world by artists academics,architects and accidental travelers. Bamboo is everything men aspire to be; Strong Light Flexible, as it sways gently in the wind even as the world below shakes in anger.