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The Ecuador Chronicles - 2010-08
 
Guadua (Bamboo) - A "Vegetable Steel";
                                 A Construction Experiment at the Finca;
                                                   You Really can Build a House with this Stuff
 
Guadua is native Bamboo of the Americas. It grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas from Central America down through South America.  It has been used for centuries for construction and for creation of artistic items.  Guadua has some really unique properties.  It grows to a point of being useful for construction within 3 to 6 years - faster than just about any other natural construction material.  Its diameter is consistent for about 15 meters in height, where it begins to taper off.  This feature has attracted the attention of civil engineers, architects, academics, designers, and artists; it has been described as a "Vegetable Steel".  Environmentally, Guadua is more effective at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than most other tropical forests.  And it is very easy to grow with minimal water required.  It also has potential as an energy efficient biomass fuel.
 
My partner Matt became intrigued with the idea of Guadua construction for a couple of reasons.  First, he has a large stand of Guadua on his Finca in the campo about 2 hours west of Quito - basically a free supply of building maerial.  Second, he became acquainted with Guadua Maestra Vitelia Lucilo Clareon, who lives in Pacto - only a few kilometers from the finca.  The Maestra is an expert on everything to do with Guadua, including Bamboo construction.
 
Maestra Vitelia Lucilo Clareon - On Site
 
Matt needed a sort of caretaker cottage at the entrance of the Finca.  It would provide a place for someone to stay a night to keep an eye on things and also accommodation for drivers and tour guides when travelers stop to spend time at the Finca.  It only seemed logical to use the services of the Guadua Maestra to build the structure using the material he had readily at hand.
 
The process starts with the cutting an curing of the Guadua.  Each piece is treated with a varnish like coating - the Maestra is secretive about her formula for this, but it is essential for durable, long lasting material.
 
Freshly Cut Guadua - Treated and Curing
 
As with any construction project, the foundation is critical.  Guadua cannot have concrete poured around it; air must pass around it for the material to last.  The Maestra deals with this by using large concrete sewer pipes that are placed perpendicular into the ground.  The bottom is filled with stones.  The load bearing Bamboo pieces are placed standing up into the pipes; additional stones are filled in to hold them firmly in place.  Any rain water will flow out the bottom and the surrounding stones allow the Bamboo to air dry - never staying wet for long.
 
Foundation
 
The Finca's caretaker, Alberto, worked with Maestra Clareon on the construction of the cottage.  Alberto has a lifetime of knowledge on everything to do with living in the campo from farming to construction - he can now add building with Guadua to his skills. 
 
Cottage Under Construction
 
 A View of the Finca Entrance - Under Construction 
 
 Now, Let's Take a Look at the Finished Product
 
The wall coverings are also of Guadua - it is stripped away in narrow, slightly rounded pieces and attached on both sides of the bamboo framing.  This double siding is said to be very effective in keeping mosquitoes out.   
 
 Matt on the front Veranda
 

Upstairs Bedroom - Even the Bed is Made of Guadua
 
Bernadette in the doorway by the Swing Open Windows
 
I think we could agree that Guadua provides a rustic look - makes a log cabin look almost formal.  Some people may want a wood or masonry house with some bamboo accent.  But this cottage demonstrates that a house can be built purely from Guadua.
 
 Here is the Completed Cottage Entrance - Only Landscaping Remains to be Done
 
 Alberto and Your Correspondent, Relaxing After a Hard day of Work with Guadua
Actually, I Was Taking Photos, Asking Questions and Making a Nuisance of Myself
 
 
Would you like to Come to Ecuador and Build a Guadua House -
Find out how atLive Well Ecuador: