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Kroika! Tower: World's Tallest Bamboo Structure   (March 12, 2007)

I am proud to announce that a building I sketched out on a napkin--Kroika! Tower, the world's tallest bamboo structure--is under construction.

To support the site's staffing and overhead costs (don't forget the back offices in Xiangxi, China and Bangalore, India), I have a long-term "creative content" contract with Kroika! Cookie and Biscuit Company in Xiangxi, China (among other clients such as Jank Coffee and Astra-Zastra Pharmaceuticals).

In a recent conference call, the marketing bosses at Kroika! were bemoaning their lack of a "signature" headquarters. Every other company in China seems to be building 100-story highrises which fairly shout out their glossy global future. But alas, Kroika! is HQ'ed in relatively obscure Xiangxi, and doesn't have the capital to finance a $100 million tower, much less a $1 billion tower.

Though only an amateur designer, a stunning brainstorm struck me like a lightning bolt: why not build a tower out of bamboo? I rapidly sketched out a design for a 1,000-foot tall tower, with Kroika! emblazoned in neon at the top. Even as I noted the astounding engineering challenge such a tower would pose, my bosses were confident that the engineering talent required to design such a monstrous structure was as close as the nearest technical college.

Darned if they weren't right, as a handful of newly graduated engineers quickly came up with a design based on an X-pattern lattice of tightly bundled bamboo structural beams. The marketing possibilities set my mind racing, for I soon realized this wouldn't just be the world's tallest bamboo structure--it would also be the world's largest "green" building. Imagine an entire skyscraper constructed of a renewable "green" material like bamboo. The meager, pathetic attempts at "green building" in the U.S. (bamboo flooring in the kitchen, woo-hoo) would pale beside this vast "green" building.

Bamboo is not only incredibly strong, it is flexible. In a severe wind storm, the young engineers reckon the top of the Kroika! tower will sway about 50 feet--but slowly and majestically, giving anyone clinging onto the top a never-to-be-forgotten ride.

I hasten to point out that the Kroika! Tower is not habitable. This isn't The Swiss Family Robinson on a monumental scale; there won't be a bamboo elevator and bamboo cubicles, although the concepts were closely considered. Weight factors require the tower to be a tower only, not a highrise with 50,000 workers.

But that doesn't mean you can't climb it. One of the marketing ideas which came to me in my fevered excitement was the daredevil appeal; every extreme sport enthusiast would be wanting to prove themselves by climbing Kroika! Tower. And with liability-based lawsuits virtually unknown in China, if some daredevil did fall to an untimely death while attempting the hazardous climb, tough cookies. Or as we say at Kroika! Cookies, "That's the way the cookie crumbles."

Several financial and construction innovations have kept the cost of Kroika! Towers very low. Kroika! was able to secure a small, cheap plot of land in Pudong, across the river from downtown Shanghai, via bribes to helpful Party officials. The concrete foundation is being poured piecemeal, as concrete trucks with a cubic yard or two of leftover concrete from other jobs arrive at odd hours and dump the remains of their load in exchange for a cold beer or hot tea and a quick bowl of noodles.

The bamboo structural members are also innovative. Large uniformly sized lengths of bamboo are tightly bound with #4 reinforcing steel rods and then the hollow interiors of the bamboo are bored clean and filled with 3,000 PSI concrete-- effectively making the bamboo into a form of external reinforcing. (In normal structural concrete, the reinforcing bars are inside the post and concrete is poured around them.) As the building increases in height, the bamboo will be tightly bound by spiraling lengths of rebar but not filled with concrete, thus reducing the overall weight of the higher structural pieces.

Although some may reckon it "cheating," a light steel framework supports the first 250 feet (75 meters). To cut costs, the steel frame is a hodge-podge of leftovers from other completed steel-frame highrises, but the crafty young engineers have calculated that it is more than sufficient to support the dead-weight load of the bamboo structure above and around the steel frame. Depending on field testing of the large bamboo X-struts and posts described above, the engineers may cap the Kroika! Tower at 500 feet rather than try for 1,000 feet. If the bound bundles of large-diameter bamboo meets the onsite load tests, then the project will aim for the full 1,000 height. Even if the Tower is halted at 500 feet, it will still be a monumental accomplishment--and one achieved on the very modest budget of a cookie company.

Labor is of course very cheap in China, with illegal immigrants from the countryside willingly scaling the formidable heights of the Tower for $150 to $200 a month. Many express great pride in their role as builders of the world's largest bamboo "green" structure--a very big feather in China's cap, to be sure.

Needless to say, as a result of this project, my own star is rising rapidly in the Kroika! global enterprise. Although I can't say this will make me rich, it does enable me to continue providing whatever it is I provide here, dear reader, at no cost to you.

In case you missed my previous entries on Kroika, here's a sampling:

This Blog Sells Out (Note: monthly visits to this site now average about 45,000)

Why I Love the Most Hated Company in America

Starsbuck and Kroika Take A legal Hit

Kroika Makes Bid for Oreo--Nation in Uproar

My Brand Management Stinks

Kroika Ad 1

Kroika Ad 2

Kroika! Ad 3

The Best Kroika Ad Ever!

For more on this subject and a wide array of other topics, please visit my weblog.


copyright © 2007 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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