Homes and gardens

Building with bamboo

I have always been intrigued with bamboo for its aesthetics and versatility, both as a grass species and as a building material. It is one of the fastest growing grass varieties in the world and has been culturally and economically significant in most of South Asia for its use as a food source, in the making of cooking utensils, and for its extensive use in construction.

As a natural composite material with a high strength to weight ratio, bamboo is ideal for use in construction. Its tensile and compressive strengths compare well against conventional materials such as steel and concrete, although its mechanical properties will vary with the species.

Myriad uses

In many parts of the world, bamboo is split and woven into mats to create walls, bamboo poles are extensively used to support thatch roof forms. It has been used as an alternative to steel and is also cut and laminated into planks for flooring. The material can be curved by treatment with heat for use in arched forms. Its use as an aesthetic, non-structural elements is also widely seen in the form of bamboo mats, fencing, screens and furniture.

Today, there are numerous examples bamboo buildings all over the world such as the Green School in Bali — a stunning example of how bamboo can be used to create beautiful and eco-friendly built environments.

Pre-construction

However, before using it in construction, it is imperative that bamboo is treated for termite and rot resistance. Some of the treatment procedures include dipping it in a solution of borax and boric acid and/or removal of starch that would attract insects. Borax is also a fire retardant to some extent but further treatment for fire could also be carried out by other methods.

India is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world and has a rich tradition of bamboo in indigenous construction. The country is home to more than 135 different species, 50% of which are grown in the Eastern/ North-eastern states of India. Some of the species including Bambusa Balcooa, Bambusa Nutans and Bambusa Polymorpha are ideal for construction.

Way forward

The National Building Code of India (NBC) mentions and advocates bamboo for use in construction under Part-6, Section-3 ‘Timber and Bamboo’. Rapidly renewable (fast growing), it is seen as an effective and eco-friendly alternative to wood which can sometimes take decades to replenish.

Despite this, however, the material’s use in urban India’s building industry has been negligible. Lack of research and willingness to innovate and to move away from conventional materials is a prime reason. However, considering the fragile environmental situation today, it is time architects and builders explored this wonderful, aesthetic, eco-friendly and versatile material for its use in building construction.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2021 11:35:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/why-bamboo-is-a-great-building-material/article24112886.ece

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