Like it or not, you live in Anthropocene, a geological period in which human activity has become the dominant influence on our environment. More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities and our hunger for energy and construction expansion is never saturated. Steel and concrete, concrete and steel – those two building materials make urbanization possible, but also contribute as much as 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Is there a cure? How about wood!?
It is a common misconception that using wood as a building material has negative effects on the environment. Of course, deforestation is one of the biggest environmental problems, but sustainable forestry can allow us to procure wood, while benefiting the planet. And in the vast array of wooden materials, one extraordinary plant stands out – bamboo.
Although it belongs to the grass family, it is classified as a wooden material. Commonly found in Asia and Central and South America, bamboo is widely used in these regions for housing, furniture, food, medicine and much more. This wide range of usage contributed to the false impression, that bamboo is inferior to other woods and that it can’t be used for complex construction. Quite the opposite, bamboo is a non-polluting, reusable material with extraordinary tensile strength, surpassing timber and even mild steel. Its capacity to absorb vibrations and its bending strength make it the perfect for earthquakes-prone regions.
Using bamboo as a building material requires skill and knowledge. Proper harvesting, drying, fire and insect resistance treatment are essential for making bamboo structures durable. By applying modern technologies to existing, natural designs, we can set the course towards a more sustainable world. Bamboo might not be the ultimate solution to our problems, but it can be one of the gears that push humanity towards a better future.