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A Promising Green Building Material

What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is a grass, not a

Extensive root system
constantly growing
Replenishes itself
Grows naturally in
biologically diverse
forests throughout
southeast Asia, South
and Central America,
and the Caribbean

Why Use Bamboo?

Bamboo stands release 35% more oxygen than

equivalent stands of trees.

Some bamboo even sequester up to 12 tons of carbon

dioxide from the air per hectare.

Bamboo can also lower light intensity and protects

against ultraviolet rays.

It is very easy, affordable, and profitable for low

income communities to grow and use bamboo.

More Good Reasons

Bamboo is one of the strongest building materials,

tensile strength is 28,000 pounds per square inch

versus 23,000 pounds per square inch for steel.

In Costa Rica, 1000 houses of bamboo are built

annually with material coming only from a 60 hectare

bamboo plantation. If an equivalent project used
timber, it would require 500 hectares of threatened
tropical rainforests.

10-30% annual increase in biomass versus 2 to 5% for


A High Yield Renewable

"Ply boo" is now being used for wall paneling and floor

tiles; bamboo pulp for paper-making; briquettes for

fuel, raw material for housing construction; and rebar
for reinforced concrete beams.
Diverse species makes bamboo adaptable to many
It can be harvested in 3-5 years versus 10-20 years
for most softwoods.
Bamboo tolerates extremes of precipitation, from 30250 inches of annual rainfall.

Did I mention its strong?

In Limon, Costa Rica, only bamboo houses stood after

a violent earthquake in 1992. Because it is flexible and

lightweight bamboo enables structures to "dance" in
Bamboo is useful for different things at different ages:
<30 days it is good for eating
6-9 months for baskets
2-3 years for bamboo boards or laminations
3-6 years for construction
>6 years bamboo gradually loses strength up to 12 years old

It is important to treat bamboo against rot and insects. One

method is to cure the bamboo by standing cut culms on a

stone for a month amongst the living culms. The leaves are left
on as they continue to remove starch from culm.
The fabrication of bamboo requires very little energy,
especially in comparison to other frequently used building
Concrete 240 MJ/M3 per N/MM2

Problems Facing the Bamboo

In many places bamboo is disappearing. In Brazil there

were 85,000 sq km of bamboo in 1976, while in 1983

there were only 32,000 sq km. It is feared that within
a decade all bamboo in Brazil will be gone. Guadua is
among the threatened species because it can only
grows at tropical latitudes.

The perception that it is a poor persons housing

material. In India, the highest castes use stone to

build, the middle castes use wood, and only the lowest
castes use bamboo.

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