Bamboo has been used in construction for thousands of years. It is estimated that thereare over 1200 species of bamboo in the world. The poles can be used in building construction, furniture and other artisanal and craft purposes, or the material can be process into laminated boards, beams and sheet goods. Bamboo poles can be lashed together with cord or rope, joined using traditional pegs and dowels, or – as in modern structures – connected using bolts and cement mortars to attain engineered construction parameters.
The combination of its cylindrical shape, high silica content and the orientation of the vascular tissue is unique when compared to lumber, earth, concrete or steel. The vascular tissue grows in bundles of delivery tubes that are in line with the growth of the pole except at the occurrence of nodes and branches, where a complex diaphragm is formed inside the otherwise-hollow plant.
*Testing has shown certain species of bamboo to have up to double the compressive strength of concrete & tensile strength comparable to steel. Consider bamboo’s weight-to-strength ratios and the minimal processing needed to capitalize on this strength, this giant grass is an ideal natural building material.
*Bamboo is relatively easy to cultivate. Many species grow in slightly acid soils with few nutrients. There are over a thousand species that grow in diverse climates from the hot tropics to snowy temperate regions.
With so many species and variations, bamboo can be found in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate climates alike. In each zone different species will have found traditional applications appropriate to climatic and environmental conditions.
Bamboo has a few limitations that must be designed for. Its high sugar content makes the plant susceptible to rot and pests. This can be mitigated through material-specific building design and proper post-harvest treatment processes. Though individual poles have a great amount of strength, great care must be taken in detailing connections to properly transfer loads. Numerous traditional and modern techniques exist to aid in the design process. Individual poles can strain or fail unnecessarily without appropriate design and proper connections.