Designing and Building Big with Sustainable, Code-Certified, Structural Bamboo

By Sam Small Vice President - Developing Markets, Bamboo Living | March 28, 2009

Bamboo is one of, if not the fastest growing plant on earth and wherever it grows it's been used as building material for as long as humans have been building. But now that it's been certified that properly treated Structural Bamboo meets international building codes, bamboo has become one of the fastest growing structural building materials in the worldwide sustainable construction industry. The largest modern bamboo building built so far: 55,200 Sq Ft.

The International Code Council (ICC) certified in 2004 that Structural Bamboo Poles produced by Hawaii-based Bamboo Technologies comply with International Building Code (IBC), International residential Code (IRC) and Uniform Building Code (UBC) standards and since then over 100 building-code compliant bamboo structures used as homes and vacation resorts have been pre-fabricated and shipped from the BT factory in Viet Nam to be re-assembled on sites all around the world.

The international certification was the result of years of research and testing to find ways to protect bamboo from insects and rot and it paved the way for the legitimate use of structural bamboo by architects, designers and builders worldwide in all sorts of applications. Whatever architectural expression, residential, commercial, even bridges, that have historically been built using wood, can potentially be built "to code" using structural bamboo instead.

But Bamboo has particular characteristics and strengths that are different from other building materials, which deserve to be fully explored by architects and engineers. Bamboo is an extremely strong fiber; with twice the compressive strength of concrete and roughly the same strength-to-weight ratio of steel in tension. It's extremely lightweight by comparison: just four workers can lift a 26 ft long triangular bamboo roof truss into position by hand. The known limits of Structural Bamboo continue to be pushed: some of what has been achieved to date include a 90 foot Free-Spanning Truss, 30 foot roof eaves and Multi-story construction.

How do you entice the best minds in architecture, design and engineering from around the world to focus on what can be built out of Structural Bamboo and what service these structures can provide? You sponsor an International Bamboo Design Competition. And so BT did!

Bamboo Technologies, INBAR (International Network of Bamboo & Rattan) and the International Bamboo Foundation sponsored the competition. We offered over $12,000 in cash awards, the opportunity to have winning designs commercially produced by BT and inclusion in a globally distributed book and traveling exhibition. With cash prizes offered, word sure got around and we garnered over 100 relevant web mentions about the competition.

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