Be it for flooring, furnishings, scaffolding, facade or decor, with the growing awareness about environmental conservation, people are looking into alternative choices for building materials. The closest and perhaps the strongest competitor is wood and given its slow rate of replenishment, people are looking towards eco-friendly alternatives. But, of all such choices, why bamboo? What is it that makes it so special that it is now gaining traction amongst the millennials?
Why choose bamboo over wood?
This question is best answered by pitting bamboo against wood and comparing them over a variety of factors as shown below.
|Tensile strength||Owing to longer fibres, bamboo is usually more tensile||Shorter fibres reduce the tensile strength|
|Seismic resistant construction||Higher capability to absorb seismic vibration and better bendability makes it ideal for seismic-resistant construction||Wood is generally less flexible compared to bamboo and hence less suitable for such constructions|
|Replenishment||Being a species of grass that grows rapidly, can be harvested annually. Some bamboo species can grow over 35 inches in a single day.||Much slower growth (a tree might grow that amount in a year)|
|Sustainability||Needs no replanting post harvesting||Once a tree is cut down, usually a new sapling needs to be planted for continued harvest|
|Geometry||Its circular and hollow nature makes it easier to manipulate and form into shapes suitable for a variety of construction needs||Its considerably rigid form makes it harder to manipulate and the end product is usually heavier|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance grass and owing to its natural surface color, most end-products do not require painting, scraping and polishing. Requires less capital as initial investment.||Considerably high maintenance and is capital intensive|
|Benefits for nature||Prevents surface run-off owing to extensive root network and protects surroundings during typhoons owing to large canopy. Also, reduces water contamination owing to high Nitrogen consumption.||Provides shade and habitat for wildlife|
|Ease of use||Owing to its high flexibility, it is very easy to make a variety of structural shapes out of bamboo. Often, to merge them together, only joints and terminals are needed as opposed to nails and glue.||Often sub-sections of the structure are fused together with nails and glue make it hard to recycle|
While the comparison above looks into bamboo vs wood for building material, a better part of it also extends to concrete and reinforced concrete primarily used for modern construction.
Is bamboo the undisputed answer to all our troubles for building materials?
Just like every coin has a flip side, even bamboo has certain misconceptions associated with it. Unless handled with due care, bamboo can very well be spoiled by bugs and insects and it is easy to conclude that wood have been a better choice. But nothing can be far from the truth.
Just like wood, once cut, bamboo can attract insects and bugs and hence, it must immediately be dried and immunized. Also, it is inflammable so, a fire resistant coating should be applied post treatment. Bamboo fibers shrink upon drying which impacts not only the diameter across various cross-sections along the length but also can have impact on construction. Thus, master artisans take such factors into account when designing structures made from bamboo.
In conclusion, if used properly, bamboo does come far ahead of wood and can be used for a variety of purposes be it flooring, walls, furniture, buildings or decor at a much cheaper cost and lower maintenance.