With a higher tensile strength than steel, a lighter weight than aluminum, and four times the shock absorbency of carbon fiber, bamboo is a low-cost, low-carbon bike frame material.
One of the most viable and sustainable transportation technologies on the planet is already mature, and although it may not seem nearly as sexy as something like the Hyperloop, the humble bicycle is actually a far more relevant and accessible way to get around, whether it’s to the office or the grocery store or hauling goods to the market from a rural village.
But just because a technology has been refined into an effective and efficient option for daily use, as the bicycle has, doesn’t mean that progress stops, as evidenced by the virtual explosion of e-bike designs, folding bikes, and alternative frame materials (most recently, coppiced hardwood). And while I’m generally not in favor of trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, I’m almost always in favor of projects that seek to bring low-carbon and sustainable alternatives to the mainstream, especially those that also have a social good component that focuses on the developing world.
That’s why I’m really jazzed about Pedal Forward, which combines the production of bamboo bicycles for those of us in the West with the intention of meeting the basic transportation needs of those who really need it (not that we don’t need our bicycles, but considering that more than 70% of the world’s poor live without adequate transportation, the need is far greater for them than for most of us).
Pedal Forward has been working on a sustainable and affordable bamboo bicycle for the last couple of years, receiving a big nod from the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) with an award in 2012, and has taken its original design from a decidedly DIY-looking bike frame (held together with what looks like copious amounts of resin and fibers) to a really unique ‘modular’ frame. Instead of joining the bamboo frame pieces together with a bulky and rather unsightly mass of material, Pedal Forward uses steel ‘lugs’ for the crucial joints (bottom bracket, seat post, head tube and front fork, and rear drop-outs), and then epoxies in “iron bamboo” tubes to build the frame.
This method of frame-building allows for the tubes to be grown locally (depending on the location), and to be truly renewable in nature, while also creating employment opportunities in the areas where bikes are most needed. It also radically cuts the amount of emissions associated with the manufacturing process, as compared with a conventional steel bike, and delivers affordable and sustainable transportation options “that turn heads without breaking the bank.”
“Bamboo has superior material properties. It is lightweight, comparable to aluminum. It also has a higher tensile strength than steel and has four-times the shock absorbency of carbon fiber. Bamboo provides the best of these materials into a simple mode of transportation; a lightweight, aluminum bicycle that rides as stiff as a steel bicycle, and is more shock absorbent than a carbon fiber bicycle. Bamboo is also much less expensive than these three materials, leading to its moderate cost for a handcrafted product. A Pedal Forward bicycle costs $500, four-times lower the cost than bamboo bicycles currently on the market.” – Pedal Forward
The company is currently in a crowdfunding phase and seeking to raise $40,000 with a Kickstarter project (which really isn’t that much money, considering the millions raised by an über-fancy cooler and a funny card game), and is offering a full-on Pedal Forward bamboo bicycle (set up as a singlespeed/fixed gear) for just $500, or just the frame itself for $400 (so you can dress it up in all your favorite components yourself). And the bike itself isn’t just an eco-friendly product with a mission, but it also looks great, so you’ll probably be fending off questions every time you ride, which means that this bamboo bike could also be a pretty effective ice-breaker and conversation starter.
Pedal Forward is also working together with a program called Back on My Feet (BoMF) NYC for producing the bikes, which will allow some members of the program to learn valuable skills that may help them be better employed and further their opportunities for independent living.
Find out more about Pedal Forward, and its plan to enable more access to education, healthcare, and jobs for people in developing economies through bicycles and bamboo.
By using an abundant – and green – crop, the Bamboo Bikes Initiative has won international prizes.
Six years ago, Bernice Dapaah decided to forge an unconventional path into employment. About to graduate with a business administration degree but facing a bleak
job market in Ghana, she joined forces with a handful of engineering students to create an innovative product from an abundant crop: bamboo.
Her inspiration was an initiative, led by the International Network of Bamboo and Rattan, exploring sustainable, green ways to help producers out of poverty. “There’s a lot of unemployment in the country and we didn’t want to just follow the masses and look for white-collar jobs,” she says. “We wanted to come up with an idea that would also create employment for other youth.”
The result is the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, a social enterprise based in Kumasi, southern Ghana, where strong, lightweight and durable bikes are made out of bamboo and built by an ever-growing team of young people specially trained for the role. The project has serious green credentials, too: not only are the bikes an affordable, environmentally sound alternative to cars, but bamboo is fast-growing, produces up to 35% more oxygen than other trees and helps to prevent soil erosion, a significant cause of concern for farmers in Ghana.
It’s an idea so brilliant the team won a Seed award in 2010, just six months after their first prototype, and have since gone on to win 10 other awards internationally. Along with the financial assistance, Dapaah says, “Seed gave us some technical support to develop a business plan, and gave us a lot of media platforms, too. Since then we have been growing and trying to see how best we can expand the business.”
The initiative has sold more than 1,000 bikes, including sales in Europe and the US; in Ghana, they cost $120 each, around $40 more than a secondhand steel bike, but as Dapaah points out, bamboo has a number of qualities that make it an attractive alternative to steel bike frames: “Bamboo is five times stronger than steel – in China they use it as scaffolding,” and bamboo bikes are more environmentally friendly to produce than steel bikes, as their construction uses much less energy. To meet demand while aiming to mitigate climate change, the team plans to plant 10 trees for each one they use in areas where the bamboo will help restore the soil after years of land degradation.
Dapaah and her co-founders have trained more than 35 people to make the bikes and are establishing two new workshops outside Kumasi, in the Brong Ahafo region, which will employ around 50 more youths. The idea is that each employee, once trained, can train and employ five or six others, meaning the bikes can be produced on a small scale all over Ghana.
“My favourite part of the job is when I go to the workshop to see the youths and know they are able to earn a living,” Dapaah says. “I feel so happy when I see we have been able to create a bit of laughter for them.”
Source: The Guardian
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Long An – At a cost of less than $4 000, Vo Van Duong’s bamboo and coconut leaf house could herald a new wave of cheap, sustainable housing.
The natural materials on its surface belie the hi-tech internal structure of the farmer’s new home, which uses steel struts and wall panels as a defence against the elements in this natural disaster-prone region.
“The new house is safer, I’m not afraid that it will collapse,” the 48-year-old papaya farmer told AFP inside the house he moved into nine months ago.
Duong is testing a prototype by an award-winning Vietnamese architecture firm looking for low-cost housing solutions for communities vulnerable to climate change.
“There was water coming down from the roof in my old house. Sometimes, when there was a strong wind, I was so afraid the house wouldn’t survive,” Duong said, adding his new home was the envy of his neighbours.
The eco-home is the brainchild of Vo Trong Nghia, who joins other architects around the world in trying to fill a demand for cheap and easy to assemble housing – from flat-pack refugee shelters to shipping-container homes for tsunami victims.
He says all architects have a duty to help the poor.
“What about those with low income, billions of them, how can they live?” Nghia told AFP. “They have the right to live in comfortable, functional places.”
But he wants to go further, creating a home residents can take pride in.
“I don’t want people to be looking at it as ‘cheap houses’ but as resort-quality accommodation close to nature, so [residents] can live a life of the highest quality.”
The design is still being refined by his team, who are eventually aiming to create a flat-pack home. The newest version, S-House 3, can be built by five people in three hours.
“Our goal for S-house is for the owner to construct it by themselves,” said Kosuke Nishijima, a partner at the firm.
The latest design also allows for multiple houses to be tacked together, a function that could allow, for example, the construction of a storm-proof school easily transportable to remote areas or a larger family home.
Nghia has already been approached by NGOs in disaster-prone Bangladesh and the Philippines, but is not yet ready to supply the house commercially.
From saline-intrusion and flooding in the Mekong Delta to typhoons along the central coast, Vietnam is also home to communities living in high risk areas.
For decades, Vietnamese families have adapted their houses themselves, many building ad hoc mezzanines to avoid flooding.
In more recent years organisations including the Red Cross and Women’s Unions, as well as local authorities, have been trying to help people develop more resilient housing.
But in order to ensure such projects are successful, “private architects’ support is critical”, according to Boram Kim, an urban specialist with UN-Habitat in Vietnam.
“State and local government authorities are well aware that such houses are needed for the poor, but have little technical knowledge for realising their ideas,” she told AFP.
“Architects have technical knowledge for reducing the housing construction cost while making it storm proof,” she said, cautioning that it was important for designers to listen to the needs of local communities.
Architect for the poor
Nghia’s firm found that one of the problems facing rural Vietnamese living in traditional bamboo shacks or stilted river-bank dwellings is the costly upkeep they require to withstand increasingly extreme weather.
Although the S-House 2’s outer casing of coconut leaf may need replacing every four years, the structure itself should require no expensive maintenance, said engineer Lien Phuoc Huy Phuong.
“It can last a long time, the structure is sound,” he told AFP during a tour of the small building.
Despite its solid exterior, the house is spacious and airy inside, with large windows and doors to bring residents closer to nature.
“We tried to design this house with the best ventilation system, with spaces by the roof and windows for better air flow,” Phuong said, pointing out strategic gaps that should reduce the need for electric fans.
Architect Nghia, who used bamboo as a key element in Vietnam’s country pavilion for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, has long sought to incorporate natural and local materials into his work.
One of his first projects in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City was an ecologically-conscious take on a traditional Vietnamese tube home, known as Stacking Green house.
Built in 2011 for around $150 000, the building is made of a series of concrete slabs and gaps filled with plants to provide privacy while still allowing plenty of air and light.
Nghia is in strong demand for high-end projects from hotels to private houses, but said the low-cost S-House is his personal obsession.
“I want to live in S-House. If my family will agree,” he said.
Source: News 24
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