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December 28, 2017

Is bamboo the ideal building material?

“Bamboo is too close to an ideal structural material.” This statement by Neil Thomas during his talk at Bamboo U, which took place in November 2017 in Bali, really caught my attention. Neil is the director of atelier one, a London office of structural engineering, whose outstanding projects include stage and scenography for the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and U2; art installations by Anish Kapoor and Marc Quinn; the Gardens by the Bay, in Singapore, among many others. From a few years to now, the engineer has exhaustive study about bamboo, its structural properties and its most diverse potentialities.

According to him, bamboo is too close to the ideal structural material, beginning with its tubular shape, an open section, such as a channel, is weaker than a closed one because the edge can bend much more easily. Just think of a sheet of paper and how it becomes stronger when we roll it up like a tube, preventing it from bending so much. I

In addition, it has another feature that improves its resistance. The bamboo has longitudinal fibers that leave its base to the top, which are called vascular bundles. The closer to the exterior of the stalk wall, these bundles have a higher density, which makes the piece more naturally resistant. So, the stronger part of the section is further away from its radially centroid, making the piece more resistant. And this is the main difference in relation to a wooden trunk, whose strongest part is right in the center of its section. Another peculiarity is its speed of growth. Unlike hardwood, which can take more than 30 years to be exploited, bamboo can be cut and used between 3 to 5 years, then growing again.

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