Category Archives: Grow

Pulling Protein Out of Thin Air?


  • The company’s protein powder, “Solein,” is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made “meat” industry just got even more interesting.

It’s not like you can make food out of thin air. Well…it turns out you can. A company from Finland, Solar Foods, is planning to bring to market a new protein powder, Solein, made out of CO₂, water and electricity. It’s a high-protein, flour-like ingredient that contains 50 percent protein content, 5–10 percent fat, and 20–25 percent carbs. It reportedly looks and tastes like wheat flour, and could become an ingredient in a wide variety of food products after its initial launch in 2021.

It’s likely to first appear on grocery shelves in protein shakes and yogurt. It could be an exciting development: Solein’s manufacturing process is carbon neutral and the potential for scalability seems unlimited — we’ve got too much CO₂, if anything. Why not get rid of some greenhouse gas with a side of fries?

Seriously sustainable

Image source: Solar Foods

Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using carbon-capture technology, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner Fortum to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.

When the company claims its single-celled protein is “free from agricultural limitations,” they’re not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.

The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.

And let’s not forget all those beef-free burgers based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free “meats,” such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.

The larger promise

Image source: Solar Foods

The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it’s been disastrous.

The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, gets us out of the planet-destruction business at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world’s most fundamental nutritional needs.

Solar Foods’ timetable

Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think

While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.

The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.

The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS

Elora Hardy | Creating Bamboo Mansions

Elora Hardy and her father John Hardy believe that you can be happy and healthy in your home when it’s the closest possible to nature. So even when Elora had a successful career in the NY fashion scene, she left to build bamboo houses in Indonesia.

Elora and her father the Canadian jewelry designer with a team of designers, architects, and craftspeople based in Bali started to work together and create beautiful, impressive homes from bamboo.

It was built as close as possible to nature.

Credit: Ibuku

The house design looks amazing.

Credit: Ibuku

Elora and her hardworking team.

Credit: Ibuku

Their business called Ibuku makes curved, whimsical and magical homes that are extremely close to nature—inside the forest itself. The homes are highly sustainable and each one is unique in design. That means we won’t have different houses with the same design.

“Living in a box is death to the people. We evolved to walk on the earth, not on perfectly flat, industrial floors. Modern homes are full of right angles—they’re not life-enhancing. Look at the beauty in the world. There are no right angles,” said John.

The houses were built without destroying the nature around it. Look at how they kept the coconut trunk and built the roof around it.

Credit: Ibuku

The interior looks just equally impressive as the exterior of the house.

Credit: Ibuku

The doors look better than any door you’ve seen before.

Credit: Ibuku

“And the toxic crap in so many of our homes. What are we doing to ourselves and the planet? We don’t use right angles in the homes we build. We take our cues from nature and traditional indigenous buildings. The floors in our homes are often slightly ridged— they’re amazing. You wake up and you just feel happy,” told John.

“The experience that people have in a building is much more important than what it looks like. The most powerful thing for people to get from the spaces we build is a feeling of optimism, that there’s hope and possibility and magic in the world,” added Elora.

The design was very intricate with beautiful architecture.

Credit: Ibuku

Sunlight penetrates the wall and creates such a magical ambiance.

Credit: Ibuku

They even have a pool near the bamboo house.

Credit: Ibuku

In 2007, John and his wife Cynthia founded Bali’s Green School—a pioneering, open-air school built from locally sourced bamboo teaching sustainability and traditional curriculum. It aims to inspire the green leaders of the future and educate them in the latest environmental thinking.

Later John and Elora built the Green Village, a community of 12 unique private bamboo homes surrounded by lush forest. It is also just within a walking distance from the Green School.

 Read the full article at GTGOODTIMES

600 Pounds of Mushrooms a Week

Do mushrooms come from space? RELATED: Next Gen Farming Without Soil and 90% Less Water Where do mushrooms come from? Are mushrooms hard to grow? How many pounds of mushrooms can you grow in a week? Do mushrooms give you crazy dreams? Are mushrooms healthy? Lauren and Jess join Mike from Southwest Mushrooms, an organic urban grow farm, as he gives us a tour, answers some of the most asked questions, and shows us the ins and outs of growing mushrooms. #mushrooms #fungi #mycology » Subscribe to Grateful:…. » Watch more videos:… » Grateful is a team of creators & friends exploring everyday curiosities in the pursuit of bringing more joy to life. We don’t have all the answers but we ask all the questions to help people discover what it means to live a bold, colorful & grateful life.

The Complete Guide to Fermenting Every Single Vegetable

It wasn’t until very recently with the invention of refrigeration and the explosion of the modern food industry have we’ve departed from the ancient food preservation techniques that were used to preserve and eat nutrient rich food all year round. Well it turns out, we actually adapted to eat preserved food and not just fresh food all year round. Fermentation unlocks certain nutrients that aren’t available in fresh food that can provide major health benefits by consuming them in your diet. In this video, I’ll be focusing on one specific fermentation technique called lacto fermentation (yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut) that converts starches in your food to lactic acid. By learning a simple formula of salt and water, you can pretty much take any fresh veggie you find in the market and preserve it to unlock incredible flavors and health benefits in your food! Help support the kitchen studio build out! Check out more info at Follow my food experiments on instagram @lifebymikeg… download my free sourdough bread guide!


Growing Mushrooms and Making Bank!

John from visits WTF Mushroom Farm near Kelowna, BC Canada and shares with you how you can grow mushrooms and make $100k in a growing season. In this episode, John will give you a tour of WTF Mushroom farm in B.C. Canada. You will discover how they grow over a dozen varieties of mushrooms in greenhouses outdoors. You will discover how old trees can be used to grow gourmet mushrooms that can be sold for $10-$20 a pound. You will learn the entire process of growing mushrooms using the best practices to ensure success with minimal contamination. You will discover how mushrooms are being grown in inexpensive, temporary greenhouses with a shade cloth during the growing season. You will learn how many pounds of mushrooms you can produce in a portable greenhouse and how much money you can sell them for. Finally, John will interview Brian Callow, the farmer that makes $100k in just 6 months growing mushrooms during a growing season.

Jump to the Following Part of this Episode:

01:00 Wood is a valuable resource

03:07 Purchase a GYG Tee Shirt to Help support me
03:44 Using Waste Woodchips to Grow Mushrooms
04:52 Using a hammer mill to reduce woodchip size
05:46 Specific Ingredients Fed to Mushrooms to increase yield 07:45 Mushrooms grow in breathable grow bags
10:06 Sterilizing of the Grow Bags to grow mushrooms
12:28 Entering the lab
13:00 Fridge full of different types of mushrooms
16:25 List of different types of mushrooms they are growing
18:10 Sterilized Bags ready for being inoculated
19:00 Clean Room
19:55 Inoculated Mushrooms starting to grow
21:30 Greenhouse Growing Mushrooms
22:30 Mushroom Grow Room
23:20 How much one room of mushrooms can grow
24:20 Contaminated Grow Bags
25:00 Reusing spent mushroom growing medium
26:50 Fresh harvested mushrooms
28:10 Interview with Brian the Mushroom Farmer
28:34 Why did you start growing mushrooms?
29:40 Is it really that easy to grow mushrooms?
30:56 How you can get different cultures of strains of mushroom spores?
32:40 How do mushrooms break down?
33:30 What benefits are the mushroom compost?
34:15 What other revenue streams do you have to increase revenue?
35:25 How you can start your own mushroom farm?
38:00 What are some of the health benefits of mushrooms?
39:40 How are cultivated mushrooms different than wild mushrooms?
41:20 Is the flavor different of wild vs cultivated mushrooms?
42:35 Any final words of wisdom
43:00 How can someone contact you to start a mushroom and grow mushrooms?

After watching this episode, you will learn the entire process of growing mushrooms and how you can grow mushrooms and make $100,000 in a growing season.
Referenced and Related Episodes: Fungal Dominated Compost Episode…
Millipoo Episode…
How to grow microgreens…

Visit to the beneficial insect farm…

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Black Farmers x HEMP

Because hemp can be cultivated in small spaces, it’s well-suited for Black farmers in the U.S. who have endured bias in lending and typically have smaller farms. Clarenda Stanley-Anderson and her husband, Malcolm Anderson Sr., are hemp farmers in Liberty, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Donnie Rex

By Lesley Green-Rennis

  • Black farmers are a mere 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers 
  • The amount of farmland planted with hemp quadrupled in the past year 

Demand for CBD-infused products, from honey, tea, and fast food burgers to gummy bears and shampoo are on the rise, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill which made hemp farming legal in the United States.

Why This Matters: For decades, Black farmers have been treated unfairly by the U.S. government. Black farmland accounts for only 0.4% of U.S. farmland, and sales account for 0.2% of total U.S. agriculture sales. Bias against these farmers in lending has contributed to their small number. There’s also an income gap, with only 2,349 Black farmers running operations that made $50,000 a year or more in 2017, compared with 492,000 white farmers.

Planting of industrial hemp increased by 368 percent, outpacing all other crops. Although Black professionals across the country are working to carve out space in this trending industry, Black farmers are struggling to gain a foothold in hemp-based sales, a sector projected by analysts to reach $16 billion by 2025.

Black farmers are struggling to gain a foothold in hemp-based sales, a sector projected by analysts to reach $16 billion by 2025

Recent advances in technology and public policies aimed at promoting efficient, large scale agriculture will further compound such disparities. Black farmers have limited access to the land, resources, and information networks that enable them to move quickly and meet increasing agricultural demand. As growing hemp becomes more accessible, competition is increasing, and Black landowners are being left behind.

Some agriculture professionals say that because hemp can be cultivated in tight spaces, it is particularly well-suited for Black landowners, who typically have smaller farms. This is an opportunity to bring Black farmers back by providing a profitable resource that can be used for many different things.

Situational Awareness: Hemp has been touted by Democratic and Republican senators as a nationwide lifeline for U.S. farmers. Black farmers need federal and state lawmakers to push for racial parity and the federal government must ensure they have expanded access to land, legal protections are in place to preserve it, along with technical resources for them to thrive.

This article was originally published on CultureBanx. It is reposted here with permission. Read the original.

Coconut Coir 101

Coir: Common forms and applications

“I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts, fiddeldy-dee.” Whenever I mention to my dad that he should really give coco coir a go in his greenhouse. This is what he usually ends up singing in return. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing but sometimes convincing the older guys to use anything but peat is bit like trying to convince flat earther’s the moon isn’t really a giant hologram. He is already set in his ways. I guess, unlike the new generation. They have embraced coir as an alternative for growing with Mucho Gusto.

By Nico Hill, originally written for use in the United Kingdom. Please advise that not everything in this article is for direct use in the USA.

At the very least, coir does look a little bit like peat. So that’s the first hurdle overcome for the older boys to begin considering it as an alternative. Other aspects of growing with coir aren’t quite as similar though, but not so far removed that it should become a daunting challenge for them. Coir is a fantastic medium to use. All it takes to get the most out of coir is understanding the nuances that make it so great, and ultimately how you can use them to your advantage. That’s essentially the premise of this entire article. We are going to lay bare the principles of coir as a substrate and dig deep into its many forms and applications thereof. – Knowledge is power folks – The right sort of knowledge of course. Getting back to the flat Earth example, the right mindset combined with the wrong information can prove to be an entirely different scenario altogether.

Pure coco

The easiest (and actually the most practical) way in which to make use of coir is completely pure and unadulterated. Like we eluded to earlier, coir has its own very unique physical properties both in terms of aeration/water retention and also nutrient holding abilities or Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC). While combining other materials into the mix can sometimes have positive benefits to plant growth, it can also sometimes overly complicate the inner workings of the substrate to the point where it will actually stifle any advancement. To begin to understand exactly why this is, we first need to look at the individual parts of the equation, rather than just focus on the sum.

Forms of pure coir

Currently available in any self-respecting grow shop will be an abundance of different brands of coir. What you need to be able to deduce as a discerning shopper is what the differences are between them and which of them are likely to work best for your particular grow room and irrigation system. There are three main horticultural grades of coir used by the various brands on the market, and each brand will have a slightly different percentage of each in their own particular recipe. They will generally be a combination of:

Coir: Common forms and applications


The super fine particles of dust, called pith, remaining from the washing and buffering process. Excellent water holding capabilities and an ideal base for starting seeds. However too much dust will result in compacted and poorly aerated medium.

Coir: Common forms and applications


Slightly larger and more strand like, fibrous coir that provides an excellent source of air pockets and offers great drainage capabilities. The natural capillary action of the fibrous strands help provide a more even saturation throughout the pot.

Coir: Common forms and applications

Coarse chips

Larger coarse chips and fibrous strands. Provide an abundance of air pockets, and a fantastic level of drainage. Using exclusively this grade as a medium offers the high-end efficiency and usability of a more inert substrate like rockwool, yet it is still classed as an organic substrate.

Bags, Slabs or Blocks?

So once a healthy balance of the three grades of coir has been determined, they are combined and bagged up for sale. Most commonly you will find it loose filled in 50 Liter bags. Loose fill bags are most certainly the easiest to use but when you have a dozen or more bags to move, transportation problems can rear their ugly head.

Coir in slabs offers the possibility to install a coir based system in exactly the same way as you would with a rock wool slab system. Making use of the chip grade of coir within slabs offers a surprisingly efficient, and natural alternative to rock wool. However, if the more complex irrigation strategies that come with this type of substrate put you off, then the more fibrous grade of slabs offer a happy medium between the two.

Blocks of compressed coir make for a fantastically transportable medium. No huge and heavy bags to carry around, just a nice and light compressed block. In general, the problems that come with compressed blocks is that they are typically made of poorly washed/buffered coir and that you have to spend quite some time ensuring it all expands nice and evenly.

However, nowadays you can find compressed coir that is of exactly the same quality you will find in a premium loose fill bag and you can find brands that have innovative methods for expansion that take all the effort out of it for you. Just be sure to choose a reputable source.

Amending Coir

People always want the next best thing. When the next best thing isn’t on the market yet, people tend to try and create it themselves. While results with using pure coco as a growing medium cannot be easily argued with, there are of course situations in which amending the mix can prove beneficial to a particular grower’s circumstance. Understanding what you are doing to the properties of the mix as a whole is key to achieving these benefits. However you amend your coir it will affect the resultant properties in either one or both of two ways: mechanically or chemically.

Coir: Common forms and applications
Graph 1: The steeper the curve, the easier your plants can have access to the stored water!

Amending to alter mechanical properties

When products like perlite, vermiculite or clay pebbles are added to coir, they are primarily affecting drainage and aeration of the total medium. As well as the natural differences in shape and size that affect this, every substrate has its own capacity to hold on to water. You can see in the graph pictured here, four typical media. Along the Y axis is their volume in water and along the X axis the pressure at different heights in cm (5cm = approx 2 inches). As the height increases so too does pressure and each medium retains a different proportion of its entire water holding capacity. Essentially this shows how well each of them holds on to water, or you can can look at it another way and say it is their willingness to let go of water.

Looking at the blue line for rockwool, you can see it has a higher initial water holding capacity than coco, and the quick curve downwards shows that it lets go of water more easily and to a lower end point than coco. By comparison, looking at the black dotted line for coir, it has a much higher initial water holding capacity than peat and let’s go of water at a quicker rate than peat to an almost similar end result. The shallow green line for peat indicates that peat really likes to hold on to water compared to the rest!

So primarily what you will notice when amending with perlite or clay pebbles is the pot drying out at a faster rate and so an increased frequency of irrigation will be necessary. This is because you are reducing the overall water holding capacity of the pot as a whole and also because you are ‘watering down’ the coir and thus reducing its resistance to water loss under increasing pressures. What you would see the line become on the graph is a slightly lower starting point, with a slightly steeper downward trend in the middle, to a slightly lower end result.

It is not just the mechanical properties of coir you will affect with pebble or perlite amendments, particularly with some brands of pebbles. Many residual salts can be left behind which can play havoc with coir’s own natural CEC, and particularly how it has previously been buffered. Make sure to choose only the cleanest of sources when wanting to amend mechanically alone.

Amending to alter nutritional properties

This is generally where it tends to become tricky with coir. As mentioned earlier it’s by no means a direct replacement for a peat substrate and nowhere is that more evident than when it comes to adding chemical or organic fertilizers to it. The main contributing factor is the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of coir.

Coir: Common forms and applications
Coir can be mixed with many amendments.

Don’t get scared by the scientific looking words. In a nutshell (pun intended) all it really means is the total storage capacity something has for nutrients. What it actually is, is a measure of the amount of negatively charged sites that a potential positively charged cation could adsorb to. So the higher the CEC, the higher the potential storage capacity for nutrients there is.

Although coir does have a relatively high CEC, compared to peat, there is little to boast about. What this means is that if you amend with a chemical fertilizer, its longevity in coir may not be what you are used to with a peat mix. With the lower CEC there is not the capacity to hold all the immediately soluble cations and so a lot more is washed out on each watering relative peat.

Longer term organic amendments may seem like a more tempting route to go down, as with the slower release of nutrients, it will not be washed out of the fibers as quickly as a chemical fertilizer, but do not be so hasty in going down that route. The overall properties of the medium will be altered which will in turn causes further issues.

Organic amendments will have their own unique pH value, sometimes high, sometimes low. Adding these amendments into your coir will either raise or lower the overall pH of your substrate accordingly, often to detrimental levels. This will cause significant swings in pH that would otherwise be negated in a peat mix with its lime buffer.

Secondly, on top of not having the long-term storage capabilities of nutrients in the way peat does, you can never be quite sure what exactly is being released by the amendments, and at what rate they are being released. This could very easily have knock on effects to the other type of buffering in coir, calcium. This in turn could have a detrimental effect on the overall availability of elements in the nutrient solution that you (try to) supply to the plant. As an obvious example, it might be getting less calcium and more potassium than it should.

Thirdly, organic amendments very much depend on a healthy and diverse micro life present in your substrate. Some of the more premium coirs on the market will contain Trichoderma, but solely relying on those will not cut the mustard when it comes to an efficient cycling of organic based additives. The result of which will be an insufficient and sporadic release of the nutrients, so you will never quite know where you stand with what is actually in your container.

Coir: Common forms and applications
Coir comes in all shapes
and sizes, the right one for you is
mearly a matter of choice.

Using Coir as an amendment

Another possibility for coir is that it can be utilized as an amendment itself. With all the hullabaloo surrounding the continued availability of peat as a sustainable medium, it’s now more and more common to find peat mixes that contain a high level of coir as a total percentage of the substrate. It can make a fantastic additive to a peat-based mix when used correctly and it has different physical properties properly accounted for. (Usually no more than 30% before the attributes of the coco affect the way the final mix will work as a whole).

Similarly, coir can be used to great effect to improve and condition poor types of soils in an outdoors environment. A dense clay soil could benefit immensely from the addition of coir. The coir will help prevent compaction and introduces a much greater level of aeration and drainage to the soil as a whole.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Coir is a fantastic substrate on its own right. The ease of use and efficiency it has is almost second to none. If you do choose to amend your coir, you could potentially be walking into a hit-and-miss situation. If you do go down this route, make sure you take it slowly and don’t go straight in and overload it with everything in the cupboards all at once. More often than not, you will find it is best to leave the cupboards alone altogether. Mother Hubbard will thank you for it as well as your plants.

Source – Cannagardening 

Hemp beginning to replace Concrete?

The hemp fields sprouting in a part of Canada best known for its giant oil patch show how climate change is disrupting the construction industry.

Six years after setting up shop in the shadow of Calgary’s tar sands, Mac Radford, 64, says he can’t satisfy all the orders from builders for Earth-friendly materials that help them limit their carbon footprints. His company, JustBioFiber Structural Solutions, is on the vanguard of businesses using hemp — the boring cousin of marijuana devoid of psychoactive content — to mitigate the greenhouse gases behind global warming.

Around the world, builders are putting modern twists into ancient construction methods that employ the hearty hemp weed. Roman engineers used the plant’s sinewy fibers in the mortar they mixed to hold up bridges. More recently, former White House adviser Steve Bannon weighed in on using so-called hempcrete to build walls. Early results indicate it’s possible to tap demand for cleaner alternatives to cement.

“We have way more demand than we can supply,” said Radford from his plant in Airdrie, which is undergoing expansion and soon expects to churn out enough Lego-like hemp bricks each year to build 2,000 homes.

Greener alternatives to cement add to the pressure on companies including LafargeHolcim and Votorantim Cimentos as the global economy pivots toward dramatically lower emissions.

Cement makers are responsible for about 7% of global carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere every year, with copious volumes entering via limestone kilns needed to produce the material. Manufacturers say they’ve struggled to find markets for greener alternatives, giving easy entree to entrepreneurs like Radford who cater to customers concerned about their impact on the Earth.

“They love it once they understand it,” said Radford of the builders who’ve adopted the modular, inter-locking bricks he invented for their projects. “Our old practices we have to change.”

While architects and developers have traditionally concentrated on the energy used by their buildings once they’re are standing, it’s actually the materials required in their construction that represent the brunt of a structure’s lifetime carbon footprint. Replacing high-carbon-intensity materials like cement with greener alternatives like hemp can dramatically reduce or even offset greenhouse gas pollution.

Hemp fields absorb carbon when they’re growing. After harvest, the crop continues to absorb greenhouse gases as it’s mixed with lime or clay. Hempcrete structures also have better ventilation, fire resistance and temperature regulation, according to their proponents.

Numbers across the industry vary depending on the process, but JustBioFiber says that its hemp captures 130 kilograms (287 pounds) of carbon dioxide for each cubic meter it builds. Those structures made with their bricks will sequester more greenhouse gases than they emit in production. By contrast each ton of cement produced emits half a ton of carbon dioxide, according to the European Cement Association.

Read the full article at SFGATE

Bamboo Transcends the Tropics for Carbon-Negative Construction

It can be argued either way: Bamboo is a building material that’s criminally underused in construction or one destined to remain a quirky, regional curio.

Long ignored beyond the developing world, bamboo (a grass, not a tree) has the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel. Unlike those materials, it sequesters carbon as it grows instead of emitting it while it’s made. It replenishes rapidly, shooting up by as much as three feet per week. It’s hollow and lightweight. “There’s no wood that can compete with that,” says Joana Gomes of the Mexican architecture firm CO-LAB, which recently designed Luum Temple, a bamboo pavilion in Tulum, Mexico.

Beyond bamboo’s geographic specificity (it grows mostly in Central and South America and Asia), its irregular shape, thickness, and segment lengths make it difficult to mill and join together. Bamboo pieces don’t fit together neatly, which introduces challenges when creating insulated wall assemblies, a necessity outside of tropical climes.

But designers are tackling these constraints, working on systems to make bamboo behave more like wood yet still express the plant’s aesthetic properties, like its graceful segmented rhythms and aggregated textures. Harnessing bamboo’s negative carbon footprint is one way the building industry could blunt the impact of climate change, which affects the tropical developing nations where it grows. “We’re just starting to understand the potential of bamboo,” Gomes says.

Bamboo is powerfully linked to specific places and contexts: Looking at a bamboo structure, one is reminded of the roar of a rainforest downpour or flashes of tropical birds on the horizon. Bamboo can evoke reverence for faraway places, as when applied to luxury hospitality projects. But this specificity also typecasts the material less favorably. “Bamboo is associated either with lowbrow informal architecture in Asia or Central America or kitsch vacation tropes, like Gilligan’s Island,” says Katie MacDonald, an architecture professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville who’s researching bamboo.

“To truly broaden the possibilities with bamboo, we need new and dynamic joinery systems that allow for the varying poles to be connected to each other efficiently, accommodating their irregularity,” says Elora Hardy, founder of Ibuku, a Bali-based architecture firm that specializes in bamboo, designing projects such as the stunning Bambu Indah resort using Autodesk AutoCAD.

bamboo construction Bambu Indah resort bali
Ibuku designed Moon House, a highlight of the Bambu Indah sustainable luxury resort near Bali, Indonesia. Courtesy of Alina Vlasova.

Architects have heeded this call. The American Institute of Architects gave a $30,000 Upjohn research grant to MacDonald, fellow University of Tennessee Knoxville professor Kyle Schumann, and Virginia Tech’s Jonas Hauptman to design a bamboo fabrication system promising extreme versatility in joining bamboo together. Using bamboo variants that are more solid than hollow, the team can cut lengthwise rectilinear sections. “What that allows us to do is mill flat pieces so it looks more like a timber slab,” Schumann says.

Schumann and his research partners have designed a prototype milling machine that’s similar in size to an antiquated microwave, with holes at either end where bamboo poles slide in. These poles are secured with a chuck that closes around the bamboo, “sort of like a camera aperture,” Schumann says. The machine manipulates the pole across four axes, first scanning it to map the material, then cutting it with a CNC mill into any shape. “You can subtract any geometry that you can design within the thickness of the material,” MacDonald says.

The team’s ultimate vision is a self-contained, field-operable box that could parametrically design assemblies and joinery methods on the fly, then fabricate and build them. “Whereas most digital fabrication technology is high cost and requires economies of scale, this project seeks to develop an affordable DIY machine that can leverage technology to make use of the irregularity of bamboo,” MacDonald explains. With this versatility, balloon framing of smaller buildings would seem an intuitive use. In its most pared-down version—perhaps most useful for the emerging markets where bamboo grows—the machine would offer a preset menu of joints that users can select.

bamboo construction prototype milling machine
A prototype bamboo milling machine designed by Kyle Schumann’s team. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

The University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech team (which used Autodesk Fusion 360 to plan parametric tool paths and model the machine prototype) is also researching structural bamboo wall panels, similar to cross-laminated timber. The team is investigating filling the gaps between milled planks of round bamboo with insulation; one approach is to let mycelium (mushrooms fungus) clog these gaps.

“The panelized system is about creating a more standardized geometry out of bamboo,” MacDonald says, “whereas the CNC system is about creating an affordable system for custom geometries.”

bamboo construction detail of joint
Detail of joined milled bamboo slabs. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

CO-LAB worked with bamboo that was cut into rectilinear strips but used more traditional joinery methods. Luum Temple is a centerpiece of the firm’s Luum Zama residential development, luxury real estate that sits lightly on the land and preserves much of the surrounding southern Mexican jungle. An open-air pavilion that can be reached only by foot, Luum Temple is meant to be a place for quiet meditation.

The pavilion is a monumental object and work of sculpture in its own right, coalescing around five 18-foot cantilevering catenary arches—shapes made possible by bamboo’s elastic qualities. CO-LAB and builder Arquitectura Mixta cut long sections of immature, extra-pliable bamboo and bent them into shape, joining the links with aluminum straps every few feet.

Gomes wanted to build the pavilion with a structural system that was compatible with the catenary arches. Guided by a parametric design process, CO-LAB designed the triangular motif repeated throughout the structure, giving it a strong sense of rhythmic articulation. In this peaceful space, the geometric pattern warped across catenary arcs reaches out into the jungle in rich, tactile layers, appearing to be woven from fabric rather than constructed as a building. Gomes had planned to make the pavilion out of wood, but proximity of bamboo farms and experienced builders changed that. “It created an entirely new spectrum of possibilities for us,” she says.

bamboo construction assembling the luum temple
Assembling Luum Temple. Courtesy of CO-LAB.

Another bamboo-centric project, the Sombra Verde pavilion, was designed by Carlos Bañón and Felix Raspall, architecture professors at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and puts its fabrication technology credentials upfront. The duo (who practice as AIRLAB) designed the pavilion for Singapore’s 2018 Urban Design Festival.

Read the full article at AutoDesk