This is the sixth post in our Super Natural Materials series – you can view the whole series here.
How can you build using bamboo?
Bamboo is a type of grass, with a hard, hollow stem. It is a perennial evergreen: it grows every year and stays green year around. There are hundreds of kinds that grow in different regions pf the world – the plant has versatile usage, from medicine to construction.
Bamboo is one of the most versatile and sustainable natural building materials available, when treated correctly. With nearly 1500 different species of bamboo, not all are able to be used in construction, only a handful of the huge collection of species are durable enough for construction, to name a few: guadua, dendrocalamus and phyllostachys.
Being a versatile resource, it can be utilised for permanent and for temporary construction. Not only does it boast strong performance through its weigh and strength advantages, but it’s aesthetically pleasing. With its smooth, clean and attractive finish there’s no need for painting, polishing or any form of decoration.
As a natural resource, it’s not perfect – it needs treatment. With high levels of starch, it can attract insects such as termites and powder-post beetles. However, these are minor issues as it is the norm to treat bamboo before using it for construction.
There are two ways to treat bamboo – with or without using chemicals.
The non-chemical, traditional methods include smoking and white washing. Smoking is carried out in chambers, where to heat destroys the starch in bamboo, this making them immune to insect attack. White washing sees bamboo being painted with slaked lime, which reduces moisture absorption.
Chemical treatment is less sustainable, but more effective than the traditional treatments. Typical chemical treatment methods uses water soluble preservatives like Gamma BHC 0.5%, Formalin 0.5% , Phenol+ 1 Copper sulphate (1: 2), sodium penta chlorophenate 0.5% and Borax 1.5%. The chemicals are dissolved in water, then the bamboo is either sprayed with the solution or dipped in it for around 10 minutes.
Benefits of building with bamboo:
◦ Non-polluting, it does not have any crusts or parts that can be considered waste. Any part of bamboo which is not used is recycled back into the earth as fertiliser or can be processed as bamboo charcoal.
◦ Light building material, it is circular and hollow, meaning that it is easy to handle, transport and store.
◦ Stable, in each of its nodes, bamboo has a dividing or transverse wall that maintains strength and allows bending, thus preventing rupturing when bent. This means that bamboo has superior earthquake resistance.
◦ Fire resistant (to an extent), it can withstand heats up to 4000 degrees celsius, due to its high value of silicate acid and water.
◦ Tensile strength, bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel because its fibres run axially.
Examples of building with bamboo:
◦ Bamboo Car Park in the Dutch Capital
Guadua bamboo was used as the exterior wall cladding to add natural and sustainable elements to this project, just outside of central Amsterdam. The first level of the car park has been left naked, without any bamboo poles, but just the greenery of the bamboo plants which amplifies the visual aspect of the bamboo structure above.
◦ House in the Philippines
Bamboo poles were used to clad the exterior of this family home, showing off its natural look, contrasted and matched with the use of glass. When asked about building with bamboo on this project, the architects said:
“It is a low cost and sustainable material that grows intensively locally. This material has been historically used in the country for the fabrication of handicrafts, native architecture and utilitarian objects.”
◦ Wind and Water Bar
This thatched bamboo dome sits in the middle of a lake, in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam. The structure of the building exhibits bamboo’s ability to be bound and bent together to form arches.
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