Bamboo as a top-notch construction material

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The use of bamboo in construction is perhaps a neo-modern concept. And the word ‘neo-modernism’ here suits ‘bamboo taken in a progressive way’ as the green material can be used even for certain segments of the building to start with by sceptics, explain market professionals dealing with bamboo in construction. Anyway bamboo has taken off, and is being considered by the ‘green-conscious’ right from the initial stages, quite in contrast to the not-so-informed belief that the fibre is said to be eligible to enter the building only post-construction for decorative purposes. Sustainable architecture sees the material as strong and functional. Experts compare the modest grass to steel in its strength and weight and say it can be used as a structural element.

Vaibhav Kaley, Director, Wonder Grass, says “It is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth and easy to harvest.” Bamboo is bio-degradable but durability and longevity, especially when used outdoors, depend on the quality of seasoning, and some special treatment would see the mature grass go on and on. “It needs treatment, both for weather-proofing and protection from insects,” clarifies Mr. Vaibhav.

“Bamboo is a good construction material, structurally comparable with modern building materials,” says Daniel Borg from the U.K., a sculptor interested in natural building techniques. Mr. Borg was involved in a research project with the Habitat Technology Group, and delves into traditional methods of construction using bamboo.

Mr. Borg talks of extensive studies about bamboo’s strength derived from its axial fibres. The elastic vascular bundles in its stalk offer huge tensile strength comparable to steel. “Built with the proper connection techniques and design, it is capable of withstanding earthquakes.

With proper joinery, it can be used to create incredible spans,” explains Borg.

Architects dealing with green architecture have projects where bamboo stalks are being used for foundation piling in coastal areas where steel rods tend to rust in the saline environment and for reinforcement of surface beams in foundations. Flexibility has helped bamboo being used in flooring, staircase railings, balustrades and slanted windows in houses. Some of the State Bamboo Corporations in India have launched interlocking floor tiles made of flattened bamboo boards, with technology sourced from China.

Architect Neelam Manjunath of the Centre for Green Building Materials & Technology, perhaps the only designer in the construction world spearheading the cause of bamboo, especially in structural applications, says, “Don’t hesitate to believe the modest material and its strength. In Assam, many houses built with bamboo a century ago still stand safe.

Neelam uses bamboo in walls, beams, columns, doors, windows, thatched roof, railings, grills, pergolas, fencing, bridging, staircase, boundary wall and furniture. It can be used as composites in various industries, apart from bamboo lumber being useful in corrugated roofings, partitions, veneers, ply, and bamboo block floorings. Bamboo has natural cellulose and silica, which makes it physically incombustible. Bamboo allows for speedy construction as well, since most of the work can be completed off-site. Pre-fabrication is one of the star points of the material, which can go into wall panels, doors, partitions and roof structures. Research is on in India and China for the effective use of bamboo reinforcement in high-rise structures, Neelam says.

Source: The Hindu

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