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Bamboo in modern construction

Bamboo as a modern construction material? Some, if not many, would think bamboo is only used to build a bahay kubo (nipa hut) or any indigenous structure. Because of this, it gives the impression that bamboo is a "poor man's construction material." However, many in the construction industry are beginning to see the value of bamboo as a construction material to build modern structures.


One of the reasons why some people think it is inferior is because it is not utilized properly. It is therefore important to point out the flaws of bamboo. Bamboo is essentially grass and its texture and characteristics are not the same as wood.


Unlike in a bahay kubo where bamboo is used right away, it is not the same when using it in modern buildings. Bamboo must first be treated and processed to make it resistant to the elements and insects. The process of turning bamboo into these materials include slicing, skin removal, boiling, insect prevention treatment, boiling, carbonization, drying, compressing polishing and more. Basically, the whole raw bamboo is being utilized except for the outer skin part.


Special techniques need to be employed during construction. For instance, you just cannot drive nails into bamboo, or it will split. Expert carpenters would either use finer nails or drill small holes to prevent bamboo from splitting. Bamboo must not make contact with the soil. It will cause a reaction that will attract insects and cause rot in the long run. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid making contact with the ground.


With that aside, what are the advantages of bamboo over wood as a building material?


First, it is easy to cut and handle without the need for special tools. It is lighter than wood, making it easy to transport, store and handle.


Bamboo is resilient. It has a dividing or transverse wall that maintains strength and allows bending thus preventing rupturing when bent. This makes structures earthquake-resistant. It is more durable than wood. Based on the Janka Hardness Test (a test conducted to measure the durability of flooring), Strandwoven bamboo flooring is around three to four times more durable than most of the hardwood flooring in the market. It is also cheaper compared to other construction materials.


"Bamboo is already seen as a fast-becoming cost-effective and attractive alternative to plastic, metal and wood materials. Bamboo has a presence in the global market and a cost-effective product that may boost jobs and self-employment opportunities in both rural and urban areas," said architect Sherwin San Juan of ICM Spa., an Italian construction company.


"Bamboo products are more budget-friendly compared to hardwood not because it is less durable, but due to the fact that bamboo plants take less time to fully mature. Bamboo flooring is two to three times more affordable than most hardwoods," said Go.

Finally, it is environment-friendly. Bamboo does not have crusts or parts that can be considered waste. Any part of the bamboo that is not used is recycled back into the earth as fertilizer or can be processed as charcoal. Therefore, nothing is wasted.


Because of its sustainability, bamboo is considered a good substitute for steel, which gave rise to Bamboo Reinforced Concrete technology. Bamboo can replace steel bars in reinforced concrete construction. Bamboo, when split and made into a mesh, can replicate the function of the metal mesh in ferro concrete. This will allow the construction of domes and free form structures.


Due to the increasing rate of deforestation, bamboo-made products are now widely used across the world due to its durability and sustainability. It is considered a better alternative to solid hardwood since it is more eco-friendly and more affordable. Plus, it easily makes any room look more sophisticated compared to normal plastic-made materials.


When it comes to using bamboo in modern construction, tradition and technology is fused together producing interesting results. Since bamboo is a round shape, connections have been a focal point of many technologies.


Traditional technologies include lashing and the use of pegs. Modern technologies use external and internal metal connectors, plastic connectors and bundled bamboo. Besides flooring, bamboo is used for cladding, decking, veneer and baffle. This, said architect Miguel Guerrero, who is the chairman of the Green Architecture Practice Technical Working Group.


In conclusion, there is more to bamboo than building a nipa hut. Architects have put it to use in modern construction, combining it with technology and the results speak for themselves as they are able to design structures that incorporate bamboo.


Source: Manila Times

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