Slideshow: Spreading the bamboo gospel

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SAN ALBERTO, Colombia — Colombian architect Simon Velez is changing notions about what bamboo can do.

Velez has used bamboo to build massive domes, cathedrals and long-span bridges that soar across highways.

His stunning designs and his pioneering use of bamboo make him a one-of-a-kind architect who has won awards around the world. But his constructions are also drawing attention because they’re providing a more environmentally sustainable way of building.

Bamboo absorbs four times as much carbon dioxide as trees do, and can be harvested every year because of its rapid growth rate. It is stronger than concrete and steel and resists well during earthquakes. And in countries like Colombia, where it is abundant and cheap, it’s one of the most affordable building materials out there.

In a world of growing populations and shrinking resources, Velez’s bamboo designs make a lot of environmental sense. They also happen to be beautiful and soundly constructed — all convincing arguments, he hopes, for the design world to go bamboo.

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