With a tensile strength higher than mild steel and greater compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete it is no wonder than bamboo continues to be the construction material of choice for many longstanding building projects. Few are quite as ambitious with the material as Big Tree Farms however, who have recently completed the largest bamboo structure in Southeast Asia in Sibang, Bali.
Also being referred to as the largest commercial structure in existence, the new 26,500 sq ft headquarters of this proudly sustainable food company (which boasts close working relationships with over 9,000 farmers) is now in full use as an office facility and working chocolate factory.
Frederick Schilling, one of two co-CEOs of Big Tree Farms, explains: “The construction of our new headquarters embodies the soul, mission and vision of what Big Tree Farms represents and strives to create for the world. It not only provides us with the much needed space and infrastructure to keep up with demand of our products, it allows us to do it in a very creative and highly sustainable fashion.”
And sustainable it certainly is. The 15m tall structure was designed by architect Pete Celovsky, a Seattle architect now relocated to Bali who shared the company’s eco-aspirations. With considerable input from Schilling and his partner Ben Ripple, the design was developed through ‘many, many, many renditions’ to the grand structure we see today. Aside from the eco-friendly properties of the building’s core material there are two rainwater collection tanks for non-food production purposes and two black water treatment ponds serving bathrooms on each side of the building.
Bamboo has been utilised as a classic construction material for thousands of years and is still widely used across Asia for contemporary projects. It is fast growing, incredibly strong for its relative weight and gives an aesthetically pleasing finish both inside and out. The use of bamboo on construction projects is not confined to the final product however. Many professionals continue to use the canes as scaffolding and whilst the practice is restricted to buildings fewer than seven storeys in China, towering projects in Hong Kong are regularly encased in bamboo scaffolds.
This particular project incorporates office space, a retail venue with café, warehousing space, meeting areas, an event centre, general production space, and Southeast Asia’s first ‘Bean to Bar’ chocolate factory into its three-storey form. None of this would have been possible without the help of seasoned professionals.
Big Tree Farms details: “Once the architectural drawings were drafted…they were handed over to our Balinese Master Bamboo builder, Pak Cantor. Pak Cantor is probably around 65 years old and has been building bamboo structures for the greater part of his life. When asked to help build our cathedral, he looked at us like we were mad and just shook his head. Then with a grin and twinkle in his eye, he agreed.”