It is good news that there are now increased attempts to develop a widely acceptable Indian standard code for bamboo, which will help promoting its use, says SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

Where does India stand in world rankings in bamboo cultivation? It’s an answer we can be proud of – we are second, next only to China. The extensive tropical region in our country enables this production and is climatically suited for its usage also. As such increased production, easy availability and regular supply can be assured for bamboo, except in few regions.

Where does bamboo last longer, thanks to local climate? Again India – extreme temperature and humidity variation reduce the life of bamboo, but in most areas of India with moderate temperature variation, bamboo can last long. All this to confirm that India is ideally suited for bamboo buildings.

Bamboo needs three to five years to grow to maturity, by when it can be cut for construction though the basic height could be achieved in six to nine months. Even without any treatment, it can perform well beyond six years, but with minimum maintenance, many village bamboo structures have lasted beyond 20 years. Of course the best is to artificially treat it, to reduce termite attack, dry and wet rot, surface water penetration and such others, thereby ensuring durability and extended life.

Treatment

The most common bamboo treatment is dipping the culms in a solution of 2 kg boric acid and 3 kg borax dissolved in 45 litres of water for two to three days, tank especially made narrow and long to fit the bamboo poles. Copper Chrome Boron solution with pressure impregnation method is also possible, where necessary facilities are available.

Among the recurring questions on bamboo building is costing. It is difficult to arrive at a standard cost, but budgetary range for the proposed construction can be suggested by subject experts. However, this should not be directly compared with conventional methods to arrive at the lowest quotation and work awarded to a contractor.

The public sector uses standard schedule of rates for tendering projects, wherein bamboo will not find an easy place. It is good news that there are now increased attempts to develop a widely acceptable Indian standard code on bamboo, which will help promoting its use.

There are many individuals and organisations passionately working towards a better future for this material such as Wonder Grass, IGBMT, IPIRITI, Laurie Baker Building Center, INBAR, and Bamboo House India. Despite their dedicated efforts, the larger part of India’s production goes for paper making.

A notable quantity is used for non-construction items such as crafts, basketry, daily use items, and woven forms like screens and mats.

While such a wide use is laudable, it will be good to see an equally wider use in construction industry, for a greener and sustainable future.

The challenge in using bamboo has been our mindset than the material itself, though in certain areas it may not be feasible for varied reasons. If we can introspect why we are not using bamboo, we may realise our misconceptions and relook at this wonder grass.

(The writer is an architect, working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@ gmail.com)