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When the Longquan International Biennale sent out the challenge to build structures primarily focused on using locally-sourced and sustainable bamboo, they invited 12 architects to participate. Anna Heringer Architecture was one of the chosen design practices. The project resulted in two hostels and one guest house designed to showcase the structural qualities, beauty and uniqueness of building with handcrafted bamboo, teamed with rammed earth and stones.

People with umbrellas walking past bamboo and rammed earth buildings
Men building rammed earth and bamboo building

It has been reported that China consumed more cement between 2011 and 2014 than the entire United States during the past 100 years. This is a truly a terrifying statistic! Sadly, this trend is happening all over the world and a strong focus is needed to quickly reduce CO2 emissions.

Man working on top of bamboo and rammed earth building
Construction of circular rammed earth and stone building

With this idea at the heart of the design, Anna Heringer Architecture selected a core made out of stones and rammed earth. Not only is this a way to celebrate the beauty of locally-available materials, but it also provides jobs and is a way to keep money in the local community. Using the traditional building techniques is labour intensive, but also honors the craftsmanship required. A nod to the local culture is seen in the woven bamboo structure and glowing lights that resemble Chinese lampshades. Even the vessel shapes for the buildings were inspired by local Baoxi customs.

View across lawn to pointed bamboo and rammed earth hostel
Bamboo and rammed earth structures at night

While many contemporary houses use mud, they often cover them with cladding or facades. In contrast, the architects on this project wanted to celebrate the unique appeal of these materials saying, “In general we tend to think that sustainability is about scarcity. But the nature of nature is not limitation. These great building materials bamboo and mud are there in abundance. They make sense in economic as well as ecological perspective, are healthy for people and the planet. These buildings are a statement that sustainability is about quality of life and the celebration of nature’s vast resources.”

Man building top of rounded bamboo and rammed earth building
View of all three bamboo and rammed earth hostels

The design team believes that even simple buildings can be elegant, and using non-standard materials adds diversity to the architectural landscape. Perhaps even more important is the fact that natural handcrafted bamboo, rammed earth and stone preserve the local, and global, ecosystem.

Playfully dubbed the dragon, the nightingale, and the peacock, the buildings are based on basic building elements, but they are fully functional for a housing solution. The main living areas surround the core and sleeping areas are attached to its sides.

Plan and section views of bamboo and rammed earth buildings
Looking up into roof of bamboo building
Close up of man working atop domed bamboo building

The architectural design was also selected to minimise energy usage, instead focusing on natural elements like fire, sun, wind, and shade. Rather than wasting electricity usage to control the temperature throughout the entire buildings, they focused the heating and cooling on the core living spaces, using low-tech means and relying on covers to protect from the weather while minimizing the need for cooling. A fire is used for heat and for warming water. Solar collectors also offer power to the handcrafted bamboo, rammed earth and stone buildings.

View of bamboo and rammed earth buildings with mountains behind
Rammed earth and stone building in construction
Close up of rammed earth and stone wall

Sustainability specs:
– Locally sourced materials – handcrafted bamboo, rammed earth and stone
– No concrete used at all
– Minimal mechanical heating and cooling used – only selected essential areas are thermally controlled
– A fire is used to provide warmth and to heat water
– Solar panels provide additional power requirements
– Local tradespeople and labour were used

Construction of rammed earth and stone levels of bamboo building
Construction of three bamboo and rammed earth buildings
Construction of bamboo, rammed earth & stone building
Anna Heringer Bamboo Hostels China Air flow sketch
Anna Heringer Bamboo Hostels China Energy concept

Ideas for your own project:
– Look at what materials are available nearby and prioritise using them for the bulk of your project
– How could you reduce the need for concrete? Or how could you make the concrete more sustainable?
– Consider whether you need to mechanically heat or cool your entire space. Perhaps areas could be closed off in zones so you only need to manage the temperature of select spaces
– Could you add solar panels? Or if not, could you switch over to 100% green power through your power provider?
– Use local tradies, local suppliers and local business as much as you can

Images courtesy of Anna Heringer Architecture. Photography by Jenny JI and Julien Lanoo

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