Bamboo is a woody evergreen plant traditionally grown in South-East Asia, and now grown across India and the Himalayas, North-East Australia, and South-West America. It grows in diverse climate zones, and can spread rapidly, unless prevented or deliberately cultivated. It has traditionally been regarded by Chinese society as a symbol of longevity, and within India as a sign of friendship.
Bamboo is catching on in the West as a symbol of good luck and purity – several bamboo shoots in a vase of water is now a common sight in houses in Europe.
It is a highly useful plant, consisting of about 1000 species, and has a wide variety of uses, from garden design through to interior decoration and ornamental display, use as food from the shoots, as paper by early civilization, right through to use as a timber source for the building industry.
Bamboo in Building and Construction?
Bamboo is used by some American building and construction companies exclusively, who prize it as the strongest type of wood for construction, as well as being the most durable, resilient and long-lasting. It can be used in conjunction with steel to create mortice’s and tendon joints, which give a secure locking ability to a wooden frame made entirely of bamboo timbers. A bamboo house looks beautiful and if cared for properly, with regular attention to the finishings and exterior surfaces, can last for a long time. Bamboo can withstand heat and humid climates – the traditional climates of Asia, and suppliers boast that bamboo houses can withstand hurricanes if well constructed. However, it would not be well-suited to the weather of much of Europe, particularly heavy and consistent rainfall and periods of snow. Protective coating, in terms of varnishes, would have some effect, but the timber sections would need constant attention and possible annual replacement.
There are many houses in Thailand and Vietnam made completely from bamboo, and in many other buildings and dwellings across Asia it is at least a component of the house construction. It is a sustainable material, and when grown and harvested locally to the construction site, could be said to be the most ecologically friendly building material available. However, it is not native to the UK, and the environmental cost of importing bamboo is high. This prohibits its widespread use in the UK as an environmental and sustainable building material source, and efforts to grow it for this purpose are scarce.
Other Uses for Bamboo
While it should not be disregarded as a building material, those looking to plan and design a house made from sustainable materials in the UK, should regard bamboo as a potential component of the proposed house, and not as the principal material. Certainly bamboo can complement the house’s interior, as an untreated pipe cover for instance, or as ceiling or floor trimmings. Check what bamboo products are available from a local environmentally-responsible building materials supplier.
The nature of bamboo as a living material can greatly complement a sustainable house. Using bamboo as a living plant and as a tree, both within the house as well as the garden is an option.
Bamboo walls are increasingly common in gardens, to give shade and divide areas up. Take specialist advice from a local garden centre on how to grow and care for huge bamboo trees.