CUHK Team Builds Longest Bamboo Bridge in Rural China
The ‘Yi Xin Qiao’ (the bridge of comradeship) in Dujia Village, Chongqing, measures 21 metres long, is the longest bamboo bridge in rural China.
Despite China’s exponential growth in the last few decades, much of the country is still rural and many villages lack reliable transport infrastructure. According to the Ministry of Transport of China, the country is short of at least 10,000 rural pedestrian bridges with a span over 15 metres. The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s One University One Village (1U1V) team led by Yao Ling Sun Professor of Architecture Prof. Edward NG Yan Yung has found a practical solution to address this issue by building the longest bridge in rural China using bamboo. The bridge, measuring 21 metres long, was completed in April 2018 at Dujia Village in Chongqing and marks a breakthrough in modern bamboo bridge building.
Local Resources and Sustainable Architecture
The bridge is the second ‘Yi Xin Qiao’ project—an initiative to incorporate modern knowledge in mechanics and traditional techniques in the construction of rural bridges to eliminate the difficulties and danger faced by impoverished villagers when crossing the river. The main structure of the bridge was constructed with whole moso bamboo—a material abundant in southern China. Bamboo panels were also used in the flooring. Little steel was used, only in the bolts and connecting parts.
Bamboo is an economical material, requiring only a short time to become fully grown. Its flexibility also makes it suitable for a wide range of uses. As sustainability has gained importance in architecture in recent years, bamboo has been seen increasingly as a material of great potential although more work needs to be done to address its durability.
Technical Breakthrough: An International First
A study on the bamboo structure was conducted to tackle the construction challenge. The bridge, measuring 21 metres long and 3 metres wide, was constructed with 700 moso bamboos. It has the largest span among modern bamboo bridges in rural China and can last for as long as 20 years. The structural performance of the bamboo was improved, and the material was processed with pesticide and preservative prior to construction. The successful construction of the bridge demonstrates a breakthrough in using bamboo in the architectural and engineering sectors.
This work will serve as a reference for future regulations of bamboo construction. Supported by the State Forestry Administration of China, the team is working with the China Bamboo Industry Association to develop guidelines for design and construction with bamboo and promote the popularity of modern bamboo bridges in villages.
Professor Ng said, ‘I am happy to see the team’s breakthrough in technical research. Bamboo is an environmental material that can answer villagers’ travelling needs. The 1U1V team will continue to seek practicable solutions to rural problems and help promote sustainable development in mainland villages.’
Improving Lives and Gaining Recognition
The 1UIV Rural Sustainable Development Assistance Programme aims to gather professional knowledge and manpower from one higher education institution to help improve the environment and livelihood of one village strategically, systemically and sustainably. Each 1U1V project is supervised by a doctoral student at the School of Architecture at CUHK and the results form part of the thesis, while the student’s academic research is put into practice. In the process, talents from different professional fields from overseas and mainland China work together to improve lives in villages. They help the needy, promote education, protect the environment, and support cultural, social and economic development.
In 2014, in response to the aftermath of an earthquake, the 1U1V team launched a project to rebuild Guangming Village in Yunnan, with Kunming University of Science and Technology and the University of Cambridge. Two anti-seismic rammed-earth demonstration village houses were built in Yunnan, demonstrating how traditional methods can be improved to provide safe, affordable, comfortable and sustainable homes. The project received multiple international awards. In particular, it was named World Building of the Year 2017 at the World Architecture Festival, which is also known as ‘the Oscars of architecture’, and won the Architectural Review House Awards 2017.
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