Big Benefits for Building with Bamboo
Bamboo is being used in the construction industry to build climate-resilient shelters for people impacted by climate change.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. because it is actually a grass, not a tree. like any perennial grass, it has an extensive root system that survives annual harvesting. Some variants of bamboo are ready to be harvested in as little as three years, making it an excellent crop for farming. Bamboo can also accumulate carbon quickly; one hectare of bamboo can sequester about 17 tonnes of carbon per year.
It’s likely that when you think of bamboo, your mind takes you to panda bears chomping on long shoots. Their diet is made of 99% bamboo, after all. But bamboo provides so many more benefits than just nourishment to animals. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The plant is used to produce paper products, clothing, linen and bamboo charcoal, which absorbs, purifies and deodorizes the air.
Bamboo is also becoming popular in the construction industry. Bamboo poles are strong and sturdy, even more so than steel, which makes them a material of choice for construction and building. Additionally, compared to traditional building materials like concrete and steel, which emit carbon during the building process, bamboo will continue to store its carbon even after it has been transformed into buildings or bridges.
Bamboo is extremely accessible because it grows all over the world in all types of climates. It is not flammable and can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius. It is also resilient when exposed to extreme weather. People in countries where it grows will hide in bamboo groves and forests during earthquakes due to the bamboo’s stable root structure.
The Climate Smart Forest Economy Program, which focuses on using forest products to provide climate, economic and social benefits, has several projects underway which utilize bamboo for construction. One of their initiatives is CASSA in Guatemala. The program has helped create do-it-yourself bamboo housing toolkits to meet the demand for climate-resilient homes and affordable and safe housing options. The project was completed in June 2022, and the homes were tested when they survived a tropical storm that hit in October of the same year.
The project has helped sequester 2770 tonnes of CO2. Within five years, the four hectares of bamboo plantations supplying CASSA, for example, are expected to provide enough sustainable bamboo to build 40 homes per year. Carefully managed, this project will also provide jobs and training for the local community.
Many countries are beginning to prioritize using bamboo as a building material. As of 2012, China has committed to the bamboo industry development to help promote green growth and relieve the timber industry’s tense supply and demand relationships. Ethiopia hopes to become Africa’s leading bamboo producer by 2030.
As the impacts of climate change worsen, bamboo could be the sustainable solution to providing housing and shelter to countries worldwide. With its abundance, accessibility, and ability to regrow very quickly, we should continue to look at how we can benefit from using bamboo and move away from unsustainable building materials.