Bamboo is not only loved by cute, cuddly panda bears, but these days it’s a green material of choice among builders and homeowners alike.
When considering green building materials, bamboo is right up there with the best of them. Stronger than steel and twice as strong as concrete, this renewable resource is home to wildlife, needs little energy for growth, prevents the erosion of soil, and also provides biomass.
Bamboo has been used for centuries as a building material, and is increasing in popularity today due to the fact that it has similar properties to timber, and has great potential in terms of environmental sustainability.
When you think of a house constructed from bamboo, you might picture a primitive-looking dwelling in a village in the middle of nowhere, however nothing could be further from the truth, as global demand for sustainable and eco-friendly building materials means that bamboo is a building material of the past, and of the future.
Both durable and light, bamboo can be used in various ways with minimal splitting. The material is easily and rapidly cultivated, and can be harvested and treated without using convoluted tools or techniques.
The material is most commonly found in Asia, parts of the Americas, and some areas of Africa, and has been used for centuries in –
- Making musical instruments
- Home décor
- Paper making
- Creating medicines
It’s important to note that although bamboo has been underused in construction in recent years, the material provides companies with a money saving, and eco-friendly incentive.
Benefits of Bamboo
Recently, bamboo has been used for making furniture and decorations for the home. Increasingly, however, it has begun to be used for flooring purposes, gaining popularity due to the fact that the material is both cost-effective and sustainable. It’s true that laminate flooring is cheaper in price, but generally speaking, traditional hardwood flooring is more expensive than using bamboo.
Another very important benefit of bamboo is that it is naturally anti-bacterial, which is a huge plus point for people with illnesses in the family, as well as young children.
Bamboo is also water resistant, so is perhaps a better choice than a hardwood floor that can be water damaged or stained easily.
Bamboo is a very durable material too, and is easy to move and to relocate to another home or room, if the need arises.
Bamboo is abundantly grown throughout the world, and its harvesting is sustainable for the planet. In fact, bamboo grows some places in such abundance that landowners can’t keep up with harvesting the plant. What might be surprising to some, Bamboo is a member of the grass family.
As bamboo is so sustainable, it offers a real and eco-friendly alternative to some of the rarer hardwoods that are available. As well as making your home look beautiful, you can be assured that by using bamboo, you’re also helping the planet.
Bamboo is fast growing. It can take about three years to get firmly established, and new “shoots” typically emerge every spring. Bamboo grows up to five feet per year on average, and it takes anywhere from about four years to 15 years, depending on the species, for the bamboo to reach its maximum size and potential. The growth rate is also dependent on climate and soil condition. Some estimates are that there are more than 1,000 species of bamboo.
It may surprise you that it takes on average around 25 years to replace each tree harvested for building materials, whereas bamboo will produce 12 times more green building material in that time than its wooden counterparts.
The Strength and Structure of Bamboo
As noted earlier, even though its light weight may be deceiving, bamboo is even stronger than steel. This strength derives from the fibrous inner and outer skin, that is high in silica content. In addition to this, the skin of the plant is also waterproof, so it’s well protected from water, animal, and insect damage.
When you look at bamboo, you’ll see that it is basically just like a tube that has reinforced joints. Due to its naturally tubular design, the material is light in weight, and is actually protected against breaking or bending, in a much better way than a steel rod. Add this to the fact that bamboo doesn’t conduct heat and insulates very well, and it’s easy to see why the material is both energy efficient and naturally cooling when used to construct buildings.
A number of aspects, such as cost, availability, and functionality, need to be considered when opting to use a building material, and bamboo ticks all the boxes. In addition to all the aforementioned benefits, it is also load bearing, and can be shaped according to any requirements. In fact, bamboo can be grown in a box, giving the material a square shape that can be used for connecting items.
Bamboo can also be bent just after being cut, and it will still remain in shape after it has dried out. This miracle material really does do all this and more.
It’s important to use bamboo that’s the right age and species when using the plant for construction, and it should always be correctly treated and cured when it’s being prepared for use in permanent constructions. It should be treated for rot and deterring insects, for example.
What Can Bamboo be Used for in Construction?
Bamboo can be used in various ways, and is most commonly found in floor, roof, and wall trusses. It can also be utilized for scaffolding and piping, for example. Due to its exceptional strength, the material can withstand the extreme pressures put on it in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tornado.
Bamboo also makes an excellent wall covering, as well as a lightweight laminate. Footbridges are often made out of bamboo because of its strength, durability, and ability to withstand large amounts of weight. Bamboo footbridges can be seen all over the world, and particularly in rural and remote areas.
There’s also a green movement in the bereavement category, where biodegradable caskets are being made out of bamboo.
What Can Bamboo be Used for in the Home?
The uses of bamboo in the home is practically limitless. Bamboo is popular in kitchenware: bowls and utensils are quite popular, as are napkin holders, salt and pepper shakers, and bamboo steamers.
Bamboo is beloved as a furniture option. Whether it’s used for chairs, shelving, bed frames, chest of drawers, bars, or patio furniture, it offers a natural, contemporary look to any room.
Paper products is another versatile use for bamboo products. Toilet tissue, cardboard, paper and even coffee filters are only a few of the many uses of bamboo in paper-type products.
Musical instruments are also being increasingly made out of bamboo. Flutes made out of bamboo are perhaps the most common, but bamboo ukuleles and guitars are opted for by eco-friendly musicians. Speaker cabinets, drums, xylophone, and the angklung are among other options.
In terms of recreation, bamboo has made great inroads there too. Because of its unique flexibility, it is a great material for making fishing rods, particularly fly fishing rods. These days, you can find skateboards, snowboards, and surfboards manufactured out of bamboo. In fact, you can even find bamboo bicycles. The use of bamboo also extends to the artistic community, who use bamboo in their drawing, painting, writing, and sculpting.
Bamboo’s Use in Other Cultures
Besides the above applications of Bamboo, it is also used for medicinal purposes in other countries. It’s also used to make textiles and as a symbol in some countries.
Bamboo in Summary
There are many advantages of bamboo that makes it a wonderful building material, these include:
- It’s eco-friendly
- It can be grown very rapidly, and is sustainable
- It’s very versatile, and can be used for walls, piping, flooring, roofing, scaffolding, and concrete reinforcement
- It’s shock absorbent
- It can be grown into specific shapes
- It can withstand hurricane-level winds
- It’s long-lasting, like wood, when treated and maintained properly
- It’s very lightweight, and can be transported with ease
- It’s cheap to transport
- It’s relatively inexpensive
- Homes constructed from bamboo don’t require any other reinforcement, such as from steel or concrete
- It’s universal and has a wide myriad of applications
There are also a few drawbacks to using bamboo in construction, for example –
- Not every type of bamboo can be utilized in construction
- Wet bamboo will in time deteriorate
Everything considered, the eco-friendly and sustainable aspects of bamboo make it a very viable building material. The handful of drawbacks associated with bamboo can be overcome via the right research and application, therefore the use of bamboo in construction and as a choice for many home improvement and recreational options should be encouraged in order to make our world greener.
The list of bamboo-related products and uses continues to grow as we become more aware of its benefits, uses, and beauty. It’s a versatile material that has yet to see all of its environmentally-friendly and effective applications.
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