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Jules Janssen, The Netherlands

In 1963, Jules Janssen achieved a Masters of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Delft University, with the main subject of structural design. From 1963-67, he was partner in an architect’s office, with major projects involving the structural design for a concert hall containing 3000 seats, and a harbor shed of 7200 square meter (80,000 sq. ft.)

Jules begins his teaching career in September of 1967, at the Eindhoven University, on the faculty of architecture and building, teaching structural design and applied mechanics. A few years later, in 1972, a Dutch volunteer in Indonesia asks him his advice on how to build with bamboo; the only source for his answer is found in a Dutch colonial military handbook from 1890. This raises his interest in bamboo! In 1974, when the university faculty asks who of the younger staff members would like to begin a PhD research, Jules applies with “bamboo as a building material” as his subject. The faculty considers this as crazy. Jules says, “in fact, they are right. I am headstrong, and starting this research is extremely difficult.” Jules struggles with how to determine the mechanical properties of bamboo without knowledge of appropriate testing methods. He discovers there is hardly any literature available, and he has to start with the test methods themselves, which is rather unusual. Later on, in 1997, this research is extremely welcome as a basis for the ISO standard on these methods. In 1979, the secretary of the Forestry Department of Wageningen University informs him “a German professor” is coming to present a guest lecture on bamboo, and Jules attends that lecture. Afterwards he meets the professor (Walter Liese) and presents his research. Professor Liese is enthusiastic, and invites Jules to the first bamboo workshop in Singapore, May 1980, sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada, the founder of INBAR – the International Network of Bamboo and Rattan).

Three years later, Walter Liese attends the PhD ceremonies of Jules Janssen. Dr. Janssen’s first consultancy involves strategy to diminish the import of timber products by using locally made bamboo products in the country of Burundi. Additionally he was a member of the Intermediate Technology Development Group’s (ITDG) building panel, CIB-W18B for several years. He became supervisor of the National Bamboo Project in Costa Rica, serving in that role from 1987-1995, visiting there twice a year for three weeks at a time. Beginning in 1988 while attending the International Bamboo Workshop in Cochin, India, he commits himself to the development of international standards for bamboo and devotes almost sixteen years to this goal. A consultancy job takes Jules to Bangladesh in 1991 to work on the preservation of bamboo; he is granted the Royal Order of “Officer in the Order of Oranje Nassau” for his work on bamboo by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands in 1994, attends bamboo seminars in Tanzania in 1996, and in 1997, upon invitation of the Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society, Jules leads lectures on bamboo for three weeks. The lecture notes become the basis for his handbook, “Designing and building with bamboo”, which is later published by INBAR in 2000. Dr.

Janssen’s efforts on behalf of INBAR achieved significant success in 1997, at which time the Dutch Government, through the department for development cooperation, approved funding of $1.4 million (USD) for INBAR. This leads to Jules being present at the formal ceremony in Beijing for the establishment of new INBAR headquarters, followed by hectic years of much traveling as he works to build a strong organizational structure within INBAR. Most of his time from 1997-2000, he is occupied with writing draft texts for ISO standards on bamboo. The year 2000 brings formal retirement to Jules, but he continues to work for INBAR. Fortunately, Eindhoven University allows him use of all the facilities, and he continues his efforts in the development of the ISO bamboo standards, and additionally begins the role of editor for INBAR’s new Journal of Bamboo and Rattan. He continues mentoring, as he supervised several PhD candidates on bamboo: three in Eindhoven, one in Birmingham, and two in Delft. Finally, in 2004, the bamboo standards are approved by ISO. This is an incredible achievement in the acceptance of bamboo as a legitimate alternative to traditional timber and opens many doors for the use of bamboo in developed countries. The next year brings the end of Jules roles as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Bamboo and Rattan, which became the responsibility of the Kerala Forestry Research Institute. He left one job as editor for another, as he becomes the editor for the English language version of the handbook entitled, “Bamboo and Rattan in the World”, published by the Chinese Academy of Forestry on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of INBAR. This is a job of 250, 000 words, which is extraordinary considering English is not Jules’ first language! These days Jules Janssen enjoys calmer days at home, writing magazine articles or advising students. Bamboo stays on his mind, and in his heart.