In this TED talk, Elora Hardy shares something truly beautiful with us. Her story is about bamboo, not just the bamboo as a plant in your garden or the panda food but bamboo as a sustainable material. During the talk she reveals the impressive bamboo structures in Bali ranging from a six-story bespoke home to a school campus (Green school). Green School was designed, founded and built by the father and mother of Elora and received  an international acclaim for integrating academic learning and environmentally sustainable practices into its curriculum. Later Elora founded Ibuku Architecture, a Bali-based bamboo building team and their work is about building on two sides. The first is to create shelter, protection, a home or just a place to stay. The second is about building a relationship with nature.

“We exist to provide spaces in which people can live in an authentic relationship with nature.  We do this by designing fully functional homes and furniture that are made of natural substances and built in ways that are in integrity with nature.”

So, why is bamboo such an interesting and promising material even though people have already used this material for decades? In the old days, we could not give the bamboo its proper treatment, so it was not protected against insects. Now they are able to achieve this protection with a natural salt solution. With this in mind, think of all the benefits bamboo has to offer:

“Treat it properly, design it carefully, and a bamboo structure can last a lifetime.”

  • It is a fast growing plant (it can easily grow a meter in three days)
  • It only takes 3 years to harvest time
  • It can reach over 18 meters of usable length
  • It is strong in terms of tensile strength (steel) and compressive strength (concrete)
  • It  lasts in different environmental conditions (for example seasons)
  • It is flexible but won’t break easily
  • It is lightweight because of its hollow structure
  • Structures are more earthquake resistant

What’s next?

The story of Elora inspired me because her vision connects with my personal vision, which is also about a world where our connection with nature is restored. Not so long ago I got the opportunity to share my story on TEDxYouth Amsterdam in which I talked about how a travel story ended up as a change in mindset and lifestyle.  Beneath you can watch the video, but unfortunately it is only available in Dutch.


Maybe it is the time for us to take a moment and unlearn to learn. Instead of expanding our mega cities with more concrete buildings I think the real potential lies in smaller communities built from a sustainable mindset. Elora her TED talk shows us a lot of big and beautiful structures, which of course is very intriguing. But I also wonder about the possibilities of bamboo as a sustainable material that could be used for product design or simply a material accessible to everyone.

“Not a luxury product that becomes expensive but a solution accessible to everyone.”

Since I’m studying industrial design engineering, this is a great opportunity to develop within my learning process and projects. From there I was also thinking about how materials affects the way we think and how this could be used in product design. I guess it’s time to look for new challenges!

What do you think? Any (DIY) ideas for using bamboo? any other sustainable materials you would like to share?

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