Envionmental Psychology

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Green Building with Bamboo

by Jeanette Fisher

Bamboo has been used as material for roofing, walls, floors, scaffolding, and supports in the Orient and other places around the world for millennia, due mainly to its strength and wide availability. However, bamboo went through a period of neglect by modern builders, but with improved technology, this amazing plant is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and new uses seem to be coming along every day.

One of bamboo's strongest points is that it's inexpensive, even though it's superior in strength to many other traditional Western building materials. For example, bamboo buildings in Costa Rica withstood a serious earthquake that demolished other buildings several years ago.


India seems to be leading the way in much of the research being done into creating bamboo construction products. For instance, in 2001, the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute began developing bamboo mat roofing materials that have allowed roofers to put on a strong, durable covering at a much lower cost than other roofing materials. India's Bamboo Development Agency is also working on the development of bamboo concrete technology that shows promise, as well.

In India, bamboo has been used to reinforce roads, and bamboo has also been employed to create check dams and retaining walls in South America, but bamboo’s greatest potential may lie in its ability to become a timber substitute. With the world’s forests depleting, bamboo may soon become the main alternative to expensive timber in the construction trades. Here are a few examples:

After bamboo has been split and treated with glue, the resulting bamboo boards could be used for nearly any purpose where lumber is currently used. Bamboo that has been sliced into slivers, woven, and hot-pressed can be formed into a mat board that's superior to plywood in both strength and durability. The same general technique can be employed to flatten round types of bamboo, which can then be hot-pressed and glued into strip boards and used as flooring for truck bodies, railway carriages, and containers of various sorts. The advantage to using bamboo is that the strip boards allows a larger unbroken breadth larger than could be achieved with most timber products that are available today. Those boards are also stronger.

The uses of bamboo seem to be growing exponentially, and will only continue to increase as modern technology makes more options possible for the age-old, yet futuristic building material. We've only scratched the surface of what this amazing plant can do.

Still Not Sold on Bamboo Flooring? Listen to this!

Copyright © 2007 Jeanette J. Fisher

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