Is Bamboo The Ultimate Construction Material? - Off-Grid

Is Bamboo The Ultimate Construction Material?

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Bamboo is one of the oldest construction materials in the world and has been a staple material for countless applications since ancient times in the regions in which the plant is abundant. These regions include South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia where the plant grows at sea-level (and is also found at altitudes up to 3,800 feet).



This sustainable and fast-growing natural material is poised to be accepted as a building material in the developed world. The demand for timber is increasing at a rapid rate, but quality lumber has been over-harvested. With this, bamboo could suitably replace timber and other materials in the construction industry. It has also been discovered that industrially-treated bamboo has great potential for the production of composite materials and components which could find their way into structural and non-structural applications in construction.

There are several features that make bamboo a potential building material, including high tensile strength and very good weight-to-strength ratio. The latter marks bamboo as a highly-resilient material against forces created by earthquakes and high-velocity winds.

According to the Architectural Digest, bamboo might just be the construction material of the future. One of the architectural firms that are working on bamboo is Penda, which has been perfecting its blueprints for a modular bamboo structure for several years. The firm’s project, One with Birds, features a hotel comprising bamboo tents and towers. The tents are made of an X-shaped bamboo joint which is fastened with ropes.

Penda envisions building an entire city built with the company’s bamboo modules. The firm plans to use a sustainable scheme for planting bamboos and building structures. Its goal is to build a city of 200,000 inhabitants by 2023.

In Indonesia, there is Elora Hardy who is credited for reimagining sustainable building by using bamboo. Hardy and her team of craftsmen in Bali are tapping the underestimated potential of the bamboo, which they believe should be used to house more people around the world, especially in the tropics. Elora founded Ibuku, a pioneering company in bamboo design and construction.

In contrast to tree harvesting which takes decades, the replenishment rate of bamboo has simply no comparison (except for hemp, which creates abundant usable fiber but not a construction-ready pole. Bamboo for construction purposes can be harvested for every three to six years. Softwoods and hardwoods need 25 and 50 years (or more) to harvest, respectively. Bamboo should be harvested at the right time to maximize strength and minimize damage caused by pests.





Bamboo offers a wide array of sustainable building solutions. Its internal applications include flooring, support columns, and interior walls while its external uses include corner posts, structural frames, girders, joists, braces, tie beams, rafters, roofing, sheathing, and king posts.

This construction material needs to be handled correctly to avoid several issues. A special immunization and drying process is imperative to protect the bamboo from insect attack. The wood is also flammable, so it may need to be treated with a fire-resistant substance. Special techniques for joints and terminals should be studied by builders to achieve quality bamboo construction.

The developed world is starting to overcome its view that bamboo is a poor man’s construction material. Our increasing focus on sustainable building presents a huge opportunity for bamboo to be part of it. One can only wonder what other uses bamboo will find once the hearty grass has received wider acceptance in the developed world.

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Is Bamboo The Ultimate Construction Material
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