Despite Hong Kong’s predominantly modern architecture, it still sticks with the old reliables to get things done.
One of them is the preferred use of bamboo scaffolding over steel counterparts in construction or renovation of high-rise residential blocks or commercial buildings. So the question many people ask is: why does Hong Kong prefer bamboo over steel for this very purpose?
Cost. Time. Durability.
These are the attractive factors that made bamboo scaffolding an overwhelming choice in Hong Kong over steel materials.
Bamboo is locally available and cheap.
2. Weight and Durability
Despite being lightweight, bamboo has great strength-to-weight ratio. It’s half the weight of steel.
Time is very important in Hong Kong and bamboo scaffolding has this advantage over steel. It is six times faster to put up and 12 times faster to take down.
As of 2013, there were 1,751 registered bamboo scaffolders and roughly 200 scaffolding companies in Hong Kong, many of whom are members of the Hong Kong & Kowloon Scaffolders General Merchants Association Limited.
According to Labour Department stats, a total of 16 people died by falling from scaffolding at construction sites in Hong Kong in the five years to 2008 – nine of them scaffolders. Considered a dying trade, fewer people have professed interest in taking the job, as evidenced by the graduate turnout at a local training academy. The supply of bamboo, sourced mostly from China’s Guangxi province, will drop off as more cities emerge in China and wild bamboo groves are cleared to create space.
But to those who are interested, yet still unnerved by the fact that they’ll be climbing buildings dozens of storeys high over flimsy looking frames classified by botanists as grass, tethered together only by nylon strips, veteran academy instructor Tang Sung-yuen has a simple advice: Don’t look down when you’re up there.