Bamboo Sports Hall in Chiang Mai by ­Chiangmai Life Architects

published in sb 1/2018

Carbon footprint: zero

Chiangmai Life Architects’ Bamboo Sports Hall for the Panyaden International School combines modern organic design, 21st century engineering and a natural material – bamboo. The design was based on the lotus flower, as Panyaden International School is in Thailand and uses Buddhist teachings to infuse values into its academic curriculum and teach the underlying mechanisms of the human mind.

The brief was to build a hall that should be big enough to hold the projected capacity of 300 students, but still smoothly integrates with the previous earthen and bamboo buildings of the school as well as the natural hilly landscape of the area. It should provide modern sports facilities and use only bamboo to maintain the low carbon footprint and the “Green School” mission of Panyaden.

The hall covers an area of 782 m², and hosts futsal, basketball, volleyball and badminton courts, as well as a stage that can be lifted mechanically. The backdrop of the stage is the front wall of a storage room for sports and drama equipment. On both long sides balconies provide space for parents and other visitors to observe sporting events or shows.

Natural ventilation

The design and material enable a cool and pleasant climate all year round through natural ventilation and insulation. At the same time, the exposed bamboo structure is a feast for the eye and an exhibition of masterly craftsmanship.

The hall was designed with the help of two independent engineers to modern safety standards of, for example, loads and shear forces to withstand the local high-speed winds, earthquakes and all other natural forces. The innovative structural design is based on newly developed prefabricated bamboo trusses with a span of over 17 metres without steel reinforcements or connections. These trusses were prebuilt on site and lifted into position with the help of a crane.

Durability 50 years

Panyaden’s Sports Hall’s carbon footprint is zero. The bamboo used absorbed carbon to a much higher extent than the carbon emitted during treatment, transport and construction. The bamboo was all well selected for age and treated with borax salt. No toxic chemicals were involved in the treatment process. The life span of the bamboo hall is expected to be at least 50 years.

Chiangmai Life Architects believe that state-of-the-art engineering knowledge is essential to a more widespread use of natural materials especially in larger-scale architecture. The designers feel that natural materials are poorly accepted as mainstream construction materials, because they are – in general – still perceived as poor people’s or antiquated materials. Based on their experience, the designers think that the use of these materials has been limited by human ignorance on the part of the designer and builder rather than by an inherent weakness in the materials’ characteristics themselves. There is much more potential.