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Structural engineers stacked sandbags on the world's most unique school to challenge its strength: 'We had to test it'

"We were there, loading it up with sandbags to prove how strong it was."

"We were there, loading it up with sandbags to prove how strong it was."

Photo Credit: The Arc at Green School

The Arc at the Green School in Bali, built from a series of intersecting bamboo arches, is an incredibly beautiful and unique structure. But perhaps even more important than its visual appeal is what it shows about the strength and versatility of bamboo as a construction material.

Designed by architects IBUKU and engineered by Atelier One, The Arc is a testament to bamboo's viability when it comes to constructing larger-scale buildings.

Although the use of bamboo as a construction material is already widespread in much of East Asia, it is less common in other places. However, its popularity is rising as builders seek to become more environmentally friendly with their construction — bamboo grows incredibly quickly, is super strong but also lightweight, and acts as a carbon sink, storing more carbon than many tree species.

According to Christopher Matthews of London-based structural engineers Atelier One, the demand for bamboo is increasing, with 30% of Atelier One's worldwide clients now asking for it. 

Next, he and his company hope that bamboo becomes more popular in Europe — and a high-profile project like The Arc can go a long way toward dispelling the doubts among people unfamiliar with bamboo buildings.

"We had to test it," Matthews, who was involved with the school's construction, said. "We were there, loading it up with sandbags to prove how strong it was."

"In the countries that are using it, it's extremely cheap and extremely abundant, and the workforce is skilled in using it," he added. "If we started using it in Europe, initially it'd be more expensive. But as it becomes more and more used, then there's no reason why the cost can't come down."

Many eco-conscious consumers in the United States are already turning to products such as bamboo toilet paper and bamboo diapers in an effort to cut down on waste. More bamboo buildings may not be too far in the future.

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