Will Bamboo Change the Face of Western Construction?

Housing shortages exist in various regions all over the world as the global population continues to increase year-on-year and construction falls behind....

Housing shortages exist in various regions all over the world as the global population continues to increase year-on-year and construction falls behind, failing to meet the pressures of demand.

Buildings have been made out of bamboo for thousands of years during which time, the material has been developed considerably to provide a higher quality, lighter and more moisture-resistant construction bamboo that could replace the demand for wood, steel and concrete building materials.

bamboo scaffolding

Bamboo is widely used in construction throughout Asia

Bamboo a Sustainable Solution for Urban Expansion

Gregory Smith, a professor in the University of British Columbia's department of wood science says that using bamboo materials to meet future building needs may offer a more sustainable solution to repaid urban expansion that's taking place around the globe.

Using materials such as bamboo is a far more ecologically-sound construction method too:

"Concrete manufacturing is one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide," says Smith. "With the demand for new buildings in rapidly developing areas like China, we need to find ways of reducing the carbon footprint of the construction industry and promoting the use of renewable materials."

Buildings Capable of Organic Growth

Earlier this year, proposals were put forward by French architects Chartier-Corbosson for the construction of a high-rise office building predominantly in bamboo. The London Organic Skycraper, if realised, is designed to constantly grow using the recycled waste of its residents as building material.

bamboo skyscraper

The London Organic Skyscraper designed to 'grow' using recycled office waste

According to the architects, the average office worker generates about 80 bottles and 75kgs of paper each year. This would be recycled via on-site refabrication devices which would make insulated panels for the façade of the building – as more waste is recycled, more of the building becomes insulated for use.

Over in Holland, a multi-storey car park is being built using construction quality bamboo by developers Bouw Nederland in Den Haag City Centre. Not only an aesthetically pleasing material, bamboo is exceptionally hard-wearing and robust, lending itself well for use in construction of large-scale structures.

bamboo parking lot

Proposed design of a multi-storey car park in The Hague, Netherlands

Bamboo Used in Construction for Centuries

Bamboo is a woody evergreen plant traditionally grown in South-East Asia and now across India and the Himalayas, North-East Australia and South-West America. The material, described as "vegetable steel" is used exclusively by some American building and construction companies, who prize it as being the strongest type of wood for construction as well as being the most durable, resilient and long-lasting. Bamboo can be used in conjunction with steel to create mortice's and tendon joints, providing a secure locking ability to a wooden frame made entirely of bamboo timbers.

Many progressive architects would like to see more city skylines with a large component of bamboo structures, feeling that the material is somewhat overlooked and under-estimated by western construction firms.

If the proposed London Organic Skyscraper project goes ahead, London may well become the spearhead for bamboo construction in Europe, literally changing the face of architecture within an increasingly eco-friendly climate.

- Wednesday 20 August 2014

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