Elora Hardy was living the dream, enjoying a successful career in the New York fashion industry when she decided there was something more important she felt drawn to do. So she packed up her bags, quit her career and moved to Indonesia in order to build sustainable bamboo houses.
That life changing decision happened a number of years ago and has since taken Hardy on an exciting and successful journey. For the last 5 years Hardy and her team at Ibuku have been changing the way bamboo is used in construction.
Hardy believes bamboo is an ideal renewable resource for building houses, although it is largely underused. Bamboo has the compressive force of concrete as well as the strength-to-weight ratio of steel. Plus, bamboo is among the fastest growing plants found throughout the world.
Hardy sought inspiration from her father, in her TED talk she explained that he “chose bamboo for all of the buildings on campus, because he saw it as a promise, it’s a promise to the kids. It’s one sustainable material that they will not run out of. And when I first saw these structures under construction about six years ago, I just thought, this makes perfect sense… Why hasn’t this happened sooner, and what can we do with it next?”
While her background story and ideologies are impressive enough, the sustainable bamboo homes she builds are breathtakingly beautiful and so enchanting, like something out of a fairytale. Hardy’s work doesn’t stop with the exterior of the home; she also decorates the interiors with sustainable furnishings made out of bamboo.
Bamboo offers so many benefits but it is not widely used to build houses because it is a wild grass and lacks the same straight, square, uniformity of wood used to mass produce houses.
Although bamboo has some weaknesses Hardy and her team at Ibuku have worked hard to overcome many challenges, such as pests, moisture damage, weathering and the impossible task of using bamboo to easily construct ‘large flat panels’ for roofing and flooring.
Hardy said, “We have had to invent our own rules.” One clever technique Hardy uses to make bamboo more reliable is treating it with boron, a naturally occurring substance that makes the bamboo indigestible to insects.
“The strength of this abundant local grass allows for towering, curvilinear structures with a notable sense of luminosity and comfort. Ibuku builds on a design process and an engineering system that were first established at the nearby Green School. Five years ago, Elora and her team chose one humble material, and with it they are building a whole new world.” –TED