Building with bamboo
In all fields there are great potentials, unfortunately lying hidden waiting for their day. There are solutions that go unnoticed and unsung. Leave alone mainstreaming them, even recognising them to ensure larger public acceptance becomes a challenge. In construction, such ideas could be region specific and not universal, material specific and not for every kind of material, and knowledge specific and not for casual application.
Bamboo fits into the above background note more than any other construction material around. Hailed as wonder grass by the experts, it is a plant material that matures for construction purposes approximately in six years, possibly the shortest time span of its kind. Though bamboo has proven its potential across many regions in the world, it does not grow everywhere; hence it is not known as an option outside its habitat. Even if known, majority of people believe that bamboo can be used only for structures of minor importance and temporary in nature, which actually is a myth. Widespread usage of all types of bamboo, especially in untreated conditions, has led to this judgment.
Across Indian regions, there are hundreds of varieties of bamboos; Kerala alone has more than 130 types. Not all of them are best suited for building construction, with less than 10 varieties satisfying the checklist of criteria. Choosing the right type of bamboo is of utmost importance in ensuring the right kind of building. This requires studied knowledge and skill, for in the market all of the stock may look alike. The best method of course is to check out bamboo grove supplying the material and ensure the particular grove has the shortlisted bamboo type. The cut bamboo should not have flowered and should not be aged, when it would have had reduced strength. What if we end up using some bamboo not knowing if it is the best or not? There would be no disaster, but the durability, maintenance, load-bearing capacity and such others may not be very satisfactory.
Bamboo has more tensile strength than mild steel, in given specific conditions!.While living and standing tall, bamboo may swing in the wind violently, but takes the wind load very well, suggesting its hidden load-bearing capacity. Its fibrous structure ensures a shear-proof material that can transfer vertical load efficiently and diagonal loads fairly well. Without cutting equipment, it does not get cut into parts by hands, rain and wind. The unique structure of bamboo ensures material integrity, minimum water penetration across the skin, longer life than timber even if left exposed to weather, light weight for its given volume, and ease of working with, thanks to the manageable sizes.