Practical Applications of Bamboo as a Construction Material

Bamboo as a construction material have touched all areas of construction from the basic foundation construction, to supports elements and even as reinforcement in cement concrete. Even though its applications are common from decades, its real application keeping durability as a concern has to be studied. 

In this article, lets discuss the various applications for which bamboo is used and their real remarks on that application.

Bamboo for Foundation Construction

Bamboo has been used for the construction of foundation for low-cost houses. A very much treated bamboo using effective fungicidal preservative can make the foundation last for 3 to 5 years. There is no experimental data for such a suggestion. 

But for building construction whose foundation is more prone to water, damp, other alternative materials like brick, concrete or stone is more recommended compared to bamboo.

Bamboos can be used as supporting posts for some low-cost houses. In those situations, the bamboo used must posses  culms with large diameter, thick walls and nodes closer to get maximum resistance against bending action.

Fig.2. Bamboo as Supporting Posts

When there is no availability of large diameter bamboos, small bamboos with smaller diameter can be used and bound together to make composite pillar to support the structure.

Bamboo as Frames for Construction

Frame forms an important part of a house and it is generally used fully or partly as a frame material. In regions, who can afford cost difference, make use of hardwood for frames, as they give stiffer joints and more rigid construction than bamboo. Partly, bamboo is also incorporated along with this hardwood.

But, in areas where flexible construction is more required over rigid construction, like earthquake prone areas, bamboo-framed house help to survive and remain serviceable longer than any other low-cost material.

For the construction of bamboo frames for buildings, only whole culms is used for construction of building frame. To get uniform diameter and maximum thickness of the wood wall, the upper, highly tapered, relatively thin-walled portion of the culm is removed. This is done to get more stiffness and strength. The tip cuts can be used for roof sheathing or to fill spacing for individual units.

When we consider a complete conventional bamboo house, the individual structural elements used are corner posts, girder, joists, studs, struts, braces, tie beams, king posts, purlins, rafters, sheathing etc. 

One limitation of bamboo material when used as frames are that they must be free form notch or cuts or mortice that would result their ultimate strength.

Bamboo as Floors for Construction

Bamboo boards can be used as pavings for building to form as floors. Once the boards are placed over a well compacted earth (ground floor) they are pounded with a tamper of suitable design to drive them close to come in contact with the soil beneath. 

In more quality houses, the floor is raised from the ground. This method is more hygienic and provide sheltered space below the floor. This space can be used as storage area, cattle rearing, tools and farm equipment storing. 

A sound structural design and good species bamboo can make a quality floor construction. The bamboo floor covering can be made of small whole culms, strips or bamboo boards by opening and flattening out whole culms.

The bamboo boards are fastened down using thin strips of bamboo that is secured to the supporting members using wire lashings, small nails or thongs.

Bamboo as Walls, Partitions and Ceilings

Bamboo as walls can be constructed in infinite variation that depends on the strength and resistance required. For this, whole culms or longitudinal halves can be used either in horizontal or vertical array. They function more effectively when placed vertical and gives more durability. During rains, they dry out very quickly when in vertical direction.

Bamboo as Doors and Windows

Bamboo alone as doors or windows are not used. They are combined  with hardwood, or other materials along with bamboo boards for construction of doors and windows. The door themselves may be wood or woven bamboo matting stretched on a bamboo frame.

Bamboo as Roof Material

As bamboo have high strength-weight ratio, they can be used as good structural elements roof construction. While designing for roof, keep in mind the nature and the weight of the roof cover, the bamboo shingles, or tile etc.

Bamboo for Pipes and Trough Construction

The culms of certain bamboo without diaphragms can be used for the fabrication of pipe and troughs. The longitudinal halves of bamboo culms act as satisfactory trough elements. They can be also used to carry water from kitchen as pipes or troughs.

The longitudinal halves of bamboo culms without diaphragms act as suitable conduit for bringing water for domestic use.

Bamboo as Reinforcement in Construction

Bamboo has great tensile strength over steel and sustains compression more than steel reinforcement. But its use is limited due to less durability, shrinkage issues, environmental degradation and insect attacks.

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