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Timber of the 21st century

Bamboo is emerging not only as an eco-friendly alternative construction material, but also a substance that lends itself to 1,500 different uses. It has come to be recognised as the ‘timber of the 21st century’ as it can be grown fast, produces immense amount of biomass and finds use as a substitute for steel in several engineering works.

Bamboo can serve as material for beams, rafters, as a replacement for steel in reinforced concrete structures, can be split to work as fencing material and can be further spliced to serve as mat and curtains. It can be cut and fashioned or even woven into a variety of objects of art and can be turned into fine plain or corrugated sheets with vinyl treatment which then can be used for designing furniture.

Bangalore-based civil engineer couple Indrani Mukherjiee and Samrat Saha who discovered the myriad application of bamboo while working in West Bengal and the North-East, have now come with a start-up firm in Bengaluru to help and advise people and business organisations to use bamboo for durable and aesthetic structures.

Mukherjee and Saha had studied engineering at Dayanand Sagar Engineering College in the late 1990s. While working for West Bengal Development Authority and still later for Sahara City in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, they found that bamboo was inseparably enmeshed with the life of the people in the entire North-East.

Turnkey solutions

As they studied the properties of bamboo as a construction material, their passion to promote it grew to the level of embracing it as the centre-point of their engagement with civil engineering. They decided to set up a firm, ‘Bamboooze’, in the city in 2005. They set up a workshop in Hulimavu off Bannerghatta Road and began advising firms and people to induct bamboo into rooftop gazebos, security kiosks, mantapams and cottages. The couple have built over 10,000 sq. ft of roofed space for various firms and organisation using only bamboo as supporting material. Bamboooze now provides turnkey solutions for people looking for aesthetic construction material and designs.

Training artisans

The duo train a clutch of artisans in fashioning products and furniture out of bamboo. While Indirani has developed expertise in environment-friendly engineering services and structural design, husband Saha comes up with newer architectural designs, out-of-the box ideas and cost-effective projects.

Their works ranges from resorts, houses and car parks and small structures to making doors, windows and object d’art for home decoration. Indrani was drawn to bamboo primarily because of its renewable property.

She says several varieties of bamboo can grow 1.6 inches in an hour. Saha studied the consummate artistry of 14 different tribes in Nagaland and found that each of them had their own unique pattern of cutting, weaving and binding.

Car park at IIM-B

The couple constructed a huge car park for the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, which not merely stands out as a specimen of use of sustainable material, but is a visual treat for the users and visitors alike.

They built a few security kiosks and mantapams for the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and designed and built a palanquin for a temple in Tirupati.

They also constructed rooftop gazebos for several homes, and poolside resting shades for several hotels and resorts. They are currently building a micro-brewery out of bamboo on the ninth floor of a hotel on Residency Road in the city.

Environmental benefits

Indrani says bamboo structures are strong and light-weight and easy to work on with high amenability to conventional joining material. But environmental benefits outweigh everything else. These are zero carbon structures and use one-thousandth of energy consumed in conventional construction. Bamboo beams are stated to be better than wooden beams and if treated, they resist termites and borers for decades.

According to Saha, bamboo mat boards (BMB) ranging from 3 mm to 20 mm lend themselves to several applications such as housing, transportation, furniture, storage, and panelling.

They can even resist boiling water, fire and scratching and take the natural colour of bamboo. Corrugated Bamboo Roofing Sheets (CBRS) are environmentally friendly and a safe alternative to plastic, zinc or corrugated asbestos.

Bamboo floor for BMTC buses

Saha says Northeast India’s Balcooa bamboo is the best in the world for strength and durability whereas bamboo sourced from Shimoga forests is used for products such as household furniture.

The firm introduced bamboo flooring on BMTC and KSRTC buses, though it took immense amount of persuasion of authorities against initial scepticism. Once tested, it was approved by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

The Indrani-Saha couple were adjudged a winner of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Innovation Excellence Award 2014 by the Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry for their exemplary work. Mukherjiee was conferred the Woman Entrepreneur Award 2014 by the National Foundation for Entrepreneurship Development.

The couple have launched an online store for bamboo products, “Feel Bamboo”, which is hitched to e-commerce companies. Their bamboo sticks for barbecues are fast replacing those imported from China.

A variety of products such as pen stands, vases, bowls and even shoelaces made out of bamboo are available.

(The author can be reached at maqsiraj@gmail.com)


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 5:47:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/timber-of-the-21st-century/article8479263.ece

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