A team of students from Edinburgh Napier University have returned home after completing a world-first construction project in China – based around sustainable bamboo building material.

The first bamboo-timber composite grid shell structure of its kind has been built in Guangxi, with the help of thirteen students from ENU’s Department of Built Environment, who worked alongside colleagues from Guangxi University of Science and Technology and Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology.

It is hoped the finished 12m x 12m construction, which was funded by the British Council and Turing Scheme UK, could help develop sustainable building methods in the effort to combat climate change. Bamboo’s strength and flexibility, as well as its wide availability as a natural resource, make it a viable construction material for large-span roof structures in future.

The ENU team travelled to China in early June, using the expertise picked up on programmes such as Architectural Technology & Building Performance, Advanced Structural Engineering and Civil Engineering to contribute to the building effort in various different roles.

Many of the students and staff involved have reunited at the University’s summer graduation ceremonies, where six of them, Onoh Nkiruka Patricia, Odutayo Olamide, Banke Olatunbosun, Mark Cawley, Olufemi Adeboye and Abisola Sarah Adeshina, collected their degrees.

Onoh Nkiruka Patricia, who took on the role of Project Safety Team Leader, spoke of her pride at taking part in the world-leading work. After leaving her home in Anambra, Nigeria, she worked in health and safety for 15 years, most recently in the UAE – and has now graduated with an MSc in Environmental Sustainability.

She said:

“To say I enjoyed it is an understatement! I didn’t want to leave. I worked with my heart – this has been my passion.

“That’s what I brought to the site, 101%. It was challenging – it certainly wasn’t easy – because of the climate we worked through the night at times. But when you make up your mind to do something, you do it.

“It was my responsibility to get everyone back safely, and I took that responsibility seriously.

“I am indebted to the team who all gave so much to this project.”

As well their ENU degrees, the student team have been given tiles, made from the same bamboo-based material as the grid shell, as a memento of their role in its creation.

Project lead Professor Johnson Zhang, from Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment, said:

“This project showcased the pioneering research in bio-based construction at Edinburgh Napier University

“It also serves as a testament to the immense potential of innovative sustainable construction technology in shaping a better future for the greener built environment we are creating.

“It was a privilege working with our Team BE-Napier and other two partner university student groups, together we formed a professional, dedicated and creative team. I enjoyed every moment of working with them.”

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