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Eco-friendly substitute to wood, steel and iron

M. Sai Gopal
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While there is a thriving cement, iron, steel and wood industry, there is no such industry or even a business model to commercialise and popularise bamboo and take it to the masses, writes M. Sai Gopal

Multifarious:Paper, flooring, furniture, charcoal and building materials can be made from bamboo.
Multifarious:Paper, flooring, furniture, charcoal and building materials can be made from bamboo.

After China, India is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world. Despite this, bamboo has never been in the running to become the most sought after material for furniture, interiors and structures. It has always been the less ‘eco-friendlier’ options with wood, iron, steel and cement dominating the market.

People looking for furniture or wanting to do up the interiors have preconceived notions and tilt towards wood as the first choice. There are myriad things one can do with a piece of bamboo, yet availability of information about its versatility is limited. While there is a thriving and strong cement, iron, steel and wood industry, there is no such industry or even a business model to commercialise and popularise bamboo and take it among the masses.

However, since past few years, bamboo has emerged as a strong alternative to traditional raw materials with a promise of being eco-friendly and a tag of being a more sustainable building material. Till recently, bamboo was synonymous with ladders and scaffolding. However, in the last few years, consumers and manufacturers have started taking a ‘fresh’ look at the various other uses of this plant.

“Some bamboo species can be harvested in one to five years while it takes anywhere from 10 to 50 years for softwood and hardwood. Harvests are possible every second year for up to 120 years. The bamboo yield is 25 times higher than timber hardwoods like oak tree, which takes at least 40 years to mature before harvesting,” explains Prashant Lingam of Bamboo House India.

Technically, bamboo is a grass. And yet, it is popularly known as ‘vegetable steel’ with a tensile strength of 28,000 per square inch. The tensile strength of steel is 23,000 per square inch. When bamboo is cut, new shoots come up and they mature in just five years. While other hardwood species take at least 50 years to grow back.

“There is a definite change in perception among general public towards bamboo in the last few years. They are more positive about it and are gradually realising that bamboo is an eco-friendly substitute to wood, steel, iron and plastic,” says Aruna lingam, who along with Prashant Lingam have pioneered the many applications of bamboo in daily lives. So what are the applications of bamboo in our daily lives? According to Mr. Prashant, bamboo can replace wood in nearly every application. “Paper, flooring, furniture, charcoal, building materials and much more can be made from bamboo. What's more, bamboo fibres are far stronger than wood fibres and much less likely to warp from changing atmospheric conditions,” says Mr. Prashant . Persons, however, interested in bamboo products must be very careful. “First time customers will have difficulty in differentiating between rattan or cane and bamboo. Usually, cane products are delicate while bamboo furniture is solid. Moreover, there are different species of bamboo with which different objects are made. So, customers need to do their homework first,” says Ms. Aruna. In addition to replacing wood, bamboo also finds its uses in building structures. “Pent houses, guest houses, gazebo, open restaurants and guest houses are ideal to construct in bamboo. Unlike wood, bamboo structures and furniture are not painted. There are bamboo species that attain colour based on the level of heating. There is no need to apply polish because with time, they start to shine,” Mr. Prashant pointed out. Aruna and Prashant Lingam can be reached at Ph.27207494 /8790218590.


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