More and more, bamboo houses are becoming the next trend in homebuilding as we continue to search for ways to replace traditional building materials with renewable sources that can do the job as well or better. Humans have been utilizing bamboo as a construction material for millennia as it is light but very strong, extremely resilient to shear forces like those of earthquakes and hurricanes, and grows back very rapidly once harvested.
Then we became enamored with wood, steel, and concrete as the preferred building materials as man endeavored to build homes and buildings that would last longer, provide better protection from the elements, and reach higher into the sky. But over the last 15 years or so, bamboo is experiencing a comeback as a building material for houses as emerging technologies have made bamboo much more resilient to water, insects, and funguses which compromise the inherent structural integrity of the material.
Some Bamboo Facts
- On average, it takes an acre of hardwood forest to build a typical American home and that forest takes at least 40 years to regenerate. The same home can be built with a quarter of an acre of bamboo and that quarter acre regenerates in about a year.
- Ounce for ounce, bamboo is stronger than wood, brick, or concrete.
- Bamboo is the fastest growing species of plant on the planet with some species growing more than a yard per day.
- Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than most grades of steel (withstanding up to 52,000 pounds of pressure PSI) and a weight-to-strength ratio surpassing that of graphite.
- More than 1 billion people live in bamboo houses worldwide.
In the middle part of the twentieth century, earthquake-prone countries such as Colombia and Costa Rica moved away from traditional bamboo houses and began building homes with modern materials such as wood and concrete with disastrous results.
In April 1991, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Costa Rica. The epicenter of the quake was directly under 20 bamboo homes that had been constructed as a test project for the Costa Rican government which was taking a fresh look at bamboo as a sustainable building material. The earthquake leveled scores of homes and hotels that had been constructed with concrete and rebar but the 20 bamboo homes in the test project suffered no structural damage. This incident not only vindicated the Costa Rican government's decision to fund the project but also helped bamboo houses gain popularity in other regions where bamboo was not a traditional building material.
Due to restrictions imposed by the International Congress of Building Codes, it is difficult to construct test projects of larger, multi-story buildings. The ICBO has never established engineering criteria for the structural use of bamboo. But interest in bamboo as a renewable and sustainable building material is growing as more and more people are looking to build homes that are not only unique but also environmentally responsible.
In Hawaii, engineers and developers have been working with local governments in an effort to rethink building code restrictions on appropriate homebuilding materials. They hope to use indigenous species of bamboo for the construction of some new homes and preliminary testing results have been sent to the ICBO for approval. If the ICBO approves and local officials amend current building codes, it's likely that Hawaii will be the first American state to allow bamboo construction. The buzz about bamboo house construction has begun on the mainland as well. In California, several progressive "green" architects have begun experimenting with bamboo as a viable construction alternative and people are taking notice.
The bamboo house trend is still in its infancy in the U.S. and there are many hurdles to overcome before bamboo can become widely accepted as a practical alternative to hardwood construction, but momentum is building as architects, contractors and consumers become more aware of the emergence of bamboo as an economical and environmentally responsible construction material.
Few plants offer the strength and beauty that bamboo does. It is truly a plant of emmaculate design.Learn More
We are dedicated to the promotion and use of bamboo throughout the world. Bamboo is a plant that offers limitless potential for the future. It offers us strength, sustainability, versatility, and a green alternative.