Bamboo as a sustainable building material


Bamboo is an extremely sustainable building material. Its plants regrow very fast, from 30cm to 100 cm per day. As bamboo reaches maturity very fast, it should be harvested for building material purposes in the age of 3-8 years. The plant doesn’t die when harvested and starts growing again immediately after harvesting. Bamboo, the biggest prairie of the world, is known for its flexibility and resourcefulness. It can grow around the world tropical belt, where most of countries where it grows are developing countries. These countries are fortunate to have bamboo as a native plant because they can use the most out of this sustainable building material.

From small utensils to big building structures, bamboos are transformed in so many ways and so creatively. Above and beyond the fact that this sustainable building material can be turned into many things, it is known for its strength. That is why it becomes the material of vernacular engineering and architecture. One must not forget to adequately emphasize bamboo’s role as a means for erosion control, riverbank protection, landslide prevention and land rehabilitation. In the building industry, costs and durability are the main factors determining the selection of a building component. However, with sustainability as a key issue in the last decades, especially in Western countries, the environmental performance of a sustainable building material has become more important criterion. As a fast growing renewable element with easy manufacturing process, is expected to be an alternative for more traditional materials like concrete, steel and timber.

Pros as a sustainable building material

Housing is a basic need for human being, and is now becoming a burden for low and medium income group. As a consequence, our requirement is cost effective housing and bamboo is one of the best sustainable building material. Some of the pros bamboo provides are mentioned below:

  • It can be utilized for permanent and for temporary constructions.
  • It is fastest-growing renewable natural building material.
  • It is a non-polluting material and does not have crusts or parts that can be considered waste.
  • It is very flexible and hence when it grows it can be defined to grow into specific shapes. The shock absorption capacity in bamboos makes it a great sustainable building material for earthquake resistant houses.
  • It is light in weight and thus transportation of bamboo is easy, nothing like other types of materials such as steel, iron etc. which calls for the use of cranes and heavy machinery but none is a requirement when building with bamboo.
  • When it is properly maintained it can last for a very long time like wood.

More insight to the use of bamboo as a construction element

The assessed timber species are produced sustainably; timber from regular, non-sustainable forests will have an environmental impact that is considerably worse. The good environmental performance of the bamboo culm has two distinct causes. First, its natural hollow design is architecturally is way more effective and efficient than a rectangular massive section, e.g. in the case of timber. Making bamboo a sustainable building material which contains far less material mass in a certain function compared to steel, concrete and timber. The second cause is the simple, short production process (sawing, removal of foliage, preservation, drying). In order to avoid loss of time, money and quality in future bamboo projects, it is important to take the causes of the factors of failure into account before seeking solutions. The problems during the big projects patent from the causes related to bamboo given below:

  1. The shape of the material is important (it should be round, hollow and tapered).
  2. Irregularity of the material.
  3. Lack of knowledge and building codes for bamboo.

It is important to look for proper cutting and shapes of bamboo sticks for a better and durable design. Bamboo joints need to be designed with great detail due to the hollow core of the bamboo poles. Bamboo has linear fibers, so when a nail is hammered into a bamboo culm, it invariably causes splitting. To avoid splitting, pre-drilled holes should be used at the required points. One can then use a variety of mechanical joineries such as rivets, nut-bolt, and screws. For non-kinetic joints, bamboo dowels can be used in place of nails.


Interior designing with bamboos

Bamboo blinds are the elegant and cozy bedroom and if you are a nature-lover who adores eco-friendly design, then a bamboo bed is indeed the perfect choice. Its use for crafting beds is often cultivated using sustainable farming practices and does no damage at all to natural bamboo forests. Portable bamboo partitions that is easy to move around and seem to fit in with any a wide range of themes and color schemes is another great way to secure the benefits of bamboo with an addition of indoor bamboo garden, which requires little maintenance and adds an entirely diverse aspect to the structure of room.

Some Examples

  • Mon Sang Dao is a small village in Chiang Rai, which is remotely far away from town center. Most of local people are Thai minority group and their children. The design was initiated by a group a donor to fund the library for children. Bamboo was use as alternative of local material, cost saving, and promotes creativity of material.
  • Skillfully designed by famous architects of India, everything ranging from water and drainage pipes to roofing and flooring are composed from bamboo material for Indian Ocean peripheral area.
  • Several projects have been completed using bamboo in Vietnam ranging from bars, cafes and restaurants where bamboo is used structurally to form arches and domes, for the purpose of solving Vietnam’s housing issues by cladding them with bamboos.
  • Bamboo studio in Korea received the commission to build the sculpture in front of the Agriculture office of Highlands at Kao Koh, Petchaboon province, the sculpture was created using the local bamboo of the area which was about 50 meter long to for an attraction to the tourists.

Bamboo is one of the most sustainable building materials available on earth, but obviously there are many other options, increase your knowledge about it and discover more sustainable designed materials.