A sustainable design approach to vaulted-type buildings by bending culms of bamboo & giant reeds

Project: Research-related funding

Project Details


The implementation of the SDG-11 has made evident the lack of strategies by the building industry regarding the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. As a result, modern engineered building practices consume around a third of the resources globally exploited and generate a considerable carbon footprint, increasing the socioeconomic disadvantages of native communities that inhabit those rural environments in developing countries, like the Zenu indigenous people in the Colombian Caribbean Coast. The Zenu vernacular architecture has been the best sustainable strategy for developing their built environment using local vegetable materials and low-tech and affordable building practices. Nonetheless, the lack of study and validation of vernacular vegetable materials has led to a progressive introduction of engineered materials without adequate standards, resulting in unsuitable buildings that do not respond to their cultural, economic, and environmental needs.
The hypothesis addressed in this research proposes to solve this problem through a sustainable design methodology that can introduce modern building typologies using the local materials and technical skills of the Zenu people. To achieve it, we explored the design and construction of arch supported vaulted-type structures by bending beams made of multiple culms of local species of bamboo and giant reeds to manufacture elastica arches, the design module. First, the literature was reviewed and analysed using qualitative and quantitative research methods. Subsequently, the findings were applied in creating and articulating a series of design tools and analytical methods to assess and select the most suitable bending active material and bending technique. The most relevant contribution of this work regarding the scope of vegetable building materials is the determination of the flexural behaviour of full-culms for the structural design of multiple-culm members using three different species: bamboo Phyllostachys aurea and the giant reeds Gynerium sagittatum and Arundo donax.

Key findings

Bamboo, giant reeds, bending active, vaulted-type buildings, vernacular architecture, flexural capacity, the Zenu people and sustainable design methodologies
Effective start/end date30/11/1731/05/22

Collaborative partners


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