Unusual Building Materials – What might be next, Bamboo?

June 15, 2008 at 10:38 am 1 comment

We have all heard that the green revolution will change how we live and nothing is more affecting than the materials that make up your home.

There is a movement beginning to begin using bamboo in housing instead of traditional timber products. I know we have been using this renewable resource as flooring and other no structural uses in the US for some time but I am curious whether it can really stand up as building framing.

According the the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) bamboo is a light flexible and resilient material that deserves reconsideration.

From the INBAR website: (http://www.inbar.int/Board.asp?Boardid=67)

Quick Facts

  • The world’s population reached 6 billion in 1999 and at the current rate will top 7 billion people soon after 2010.
  • At least 600 million urban dwellers in Africa, Asia and Latin America live in “life and health-threatening homes”. At least one billion people do not have access to safe and healthy shelter and the number will increase dramatically with population growth if the appropriate action is not taken (UNEP, nd).
  • One billion people live in bamboo houses. In Bangladesh, 73% of the population live in bamboo houses. Bamboo provides pillars, walls, window frames, rafters, room separators, ceilings and roofs.
  • It has been calculated in Costa Rica that only 70 ha of bamboo plantation are sufficient to build 1000 bamboo houses per year. If these houses were built with timber, 600 ha of natural forest would be destroyed each year.
  • Studies show that processing of bamboo requires only 1/8th the energy for processing of concrete and 1/3rd of that of wood to create a building material of the same capacity. In comparison to steel, bamboo needs only 1/50 of the energy for processing (Roach 1996).
  • Due to the lightweight and favorable elastic properties of bamboo, buildings made from it are very good at resisting earthquakes. All 30 houses in the epicenter of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake survived without any damage in Costa Rica.
  • Bamboo possesses excellent strength properties, especially tensile strength. Study shows that bamboo is as strong as wood and some species even exceed the strength of Shorea robusta and Tectona grandis (Sattar, 1995).

It is interesting to note that all of the houses made of bamboo near the epicenter of a recent Costa Rican earthquake, measured at a 7.6 magnitude survived intact. The movement is growing with university’s chiming in: http://bambus.rwth-aachen.de/eng/1-building-material.pdf

as well as major architectural firms as well: http://www.deboerarchitects.com/BambooThoughts.html

This site has a good listing of websites covering supply and ordering as well as other information and numerous examples of what has been already done.

While bamboo, at least certain varieties has a better strength to weight ratio than steel I believe that it still has a ways to go before it hits the main stream as a building material of choice for more than a dedicated minority here int eh United States. I understand that worldwide millions of people live in homes constructed from this plant, but the road to approval in the building code for more than a finishes product is long and frustrating. I wish it adherents good luck and hope to hear more in the near future!

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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Entry filed under: Design, Planning, Recycling, Technology. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. John Hairs  |  June 16, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Very interesting article. Indeed even herer in Germany Bamboo is starting gain a lot of attraction due to its favourable properties. But in the moment there are more “artists” and less “architects” which are interested. But lets see, it is a nice natural material and certainly a good choice for many kinds of construction.


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