Paul Crovella, head of the Construction Management department at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, explains that bamboo can be used as an alternative building technique to avoid using a traditional lumber source.
Bamboo can be continuously harvested because it regrows faster than other timber trees. It provides an abundance of lumber but is a very soft wood, making it unsuitable for commercial building material. In an effort to convert this highly renewable wood into useful construction components, companies have devised ways of making a much stronger bamboo composite.
This technique, Crovella clarified, is much like making decking composite, fake wood for decks made out of used plastic. Pieces of bamboo are essentially glued together. This makes the bamboo strong, shock-absorbent, and suitable for structural applications. The composite can be used to construct walls, roofing, plastering, joinery, and bathroom features for private homes.
Bamboo composite companies are most prevalent in foreign countries because it is cost prohibitive. It is much more cost effective to process traditional lumber, and this cost issue prevents the widespread use of soft wood composites in the United States. Even so, residential bamboo composite can be ordered online from a company based out if India if home builders so choose.
Traditional fresh lumber is too environmentally costly, and bamboo composite is too economically costly. So for those looking to build green on a budget, there is another alternative: reclaiming building materials from old structures to be used in new construction. Until bamboo composite is an affordable alternative, builders may choose to reuse parts of older or unused structures. Reusing parts of buildings produces virtually no environmental burdens, such as burning fossil fuels to produce new materials. Plus, reclaiming costs about half the price of using new materials, says Crovella. SUNY ESF, where Crovella is employed, has utilized reclaimed wood in Centennial Hall, its dormitory, and its newest building, the Gateway Building. The increased use of reclaimed wood and bamboo composite is encouraging for the future of green construction. In time, hopefully the bamboo composite industry will grow as fast as bamboo itself.