Hong Kong’s bamboo scaffolding – modern buildings meet traditional practices
Visitors to Hong Kong are often found staring up in wonder, looking at the maze of bamboo scaffolding throughout the city which can often reach as high as 30 stories.
Bamboo scaffolding is a traditional construction technique which dates back hundreds of years in many Asian countries.
In recent years, construction developers have begun to see the benefits of the old practice, and many environmentalists see bamboo scaffolding as an easy way to lower the carbon footprint of modern construction projects. Bamboo’s quick growth rate and the little effort required to grow it also make this a much cheaper alternative to metal.
However, the future of bamboo scaffolding is potentially at risk. Experts believe that in the coming years bamboo supplies will be blocked for environmental reasons. Many current scaffolding companies have rejected the switch to plastic or synthetic bamboo.
As well as the risk of future resource shortages, there is a declining number of Hong Kong youth who are interested in pursuing the trade. In the past, a scaffolder’s son could apprentice under him and learn while on the job, but new laws require testing and training before individuals can receive a license.
Although the future of the profession is at risk, with dwindling numbers and scarce resources, the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council is doing its bit to ensure the tradition continues in Hong Kong. They offer free bamboo training for teenagers and 100-day courses for adults.
A veteran Hong Kong scaffolder says that since it is a traditional industry, there are not many rules and workers need to develop a keen instinct. The strength of bamboo is often measured by the eyes of experienced scaffolders and tested using their body weight.
The starting salary for a bamboo scaffolder is around $90US a day and experienced hands can earn up to $180US a day.