Hong Kong is Built with Bamboo

A high-rise is defined as building that is at least 35m or 12 stories high. With 7440, Hong Kong has the second highest number of high rises in the world; Moscow leads with over 3000 more – who would have thoughts?! To be considered a skyscaper, a building must exceed 150m; Hong Kong has more of those monsters than any city in the world (308) while New York trails behind in second place with 238.

As you can imagine, construction is booming everywhere you look, not to mention building maintenance. Our apartment overlooks a construction site that has apparently been active for over two years and they are still working on excavation and shoring. It’s unbelievable. What I find just as unreal is the scaffolding techniques they use, which are hundreds of years old. Based on my knowledge of building codes I’m not convinced that climbing up and completing construction work on structures assembled entirely from bamboo and zip ties is particularly advisable. That being said, it’s a regulated industry (you can read about bamboo scaffolding guidelines here) and it’s a trained profession in Hong Kong.

I have to say, all the bamboo scaffolding is one of my favourite things about Hong Kong. It’s such a visceral example of old meets new / east meets west and it’s just fascinating to see. I have had fun collecting some examples during my travels through the city. Enjoy!

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You can walk under many of the structures – especially helpful when it’s rainy.
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One of many instances of an entire building surrounded by bamboo scaffolding.
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The photo above this diagram is an example of a double-layered bamboo scaffold. Note the grid structure and “X” cross bracing. (Image courtesy of the Guidelines on the Design and Construction of Bamboo Scaffolds).


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This one’s on the street right outside our front door, where they were fixing a sign. The scaffolding that cantilever over a road are probably my favourite.
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The image above this diagram is an example of bamboo scaffold for signboard. I think the photo above exceeded the 4:3 ratio, hence the second support on the right side of the road. (Image courtesy of the Guidelines on the Design and Construction of Bamboo Scaffolds).
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This type of situation seems to be to protect passersby below from construction work and falling debris above. There is typically some sort of netting or tarp used as a cover.
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Another common type of scaffold I see all over the city. (Image courtesy of the Guidelines on the Design and Construction of Bamboo Scaffolds).
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These guys (you can probably see about 5 or 6) were clambering all over this structure, building it up as they went. There were no safety harnesses to be seen.
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You can see the lashing joints here in this photo. They’re not exactly zip ties – more like that flat woven plastic that is sometimes around boxes.
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Not sure what’s going on here…it seems to be a ground-mounted system under a second, building-supported bamboo structure.
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This is how the bamboo arrives to the site. Need some bamboo scaffold work done? Just call +852 6899 9189!
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I love this one because the men on the left are building the bamboo ladder as they good.
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So unbelievable to me: this entire building shrouded in bamboo scaffolding, assembled by hand using techniques that have been passed down for hundreds of years.

Hope you enjoyed another little peek at Hong Kong!

One thought on “Hong Kong is Built with Bamboo

  1. I totally agree Alison, it is all quite amazing. I am not sure that WCB would approve it here so I will not recommend that Uncle Andrew adjust his building techniques. Having said that, I think they are very resourceful using the materials available to them and as your drawings indicate there is a method that must be adhered to.


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