Booming Bamboo Preview

Page 1

Pablo van der Lugt

Booming Bamboo The (re)discovery of a sustainable material with endless possibilities


Contents Material Scarcity

1 1.1 1.2 1.3

The Limitations of a Linear Economy Required Transition to a Circular Economy Back to a Bio-based Economy

2 2.1 2.2

Bamboo, a Giant Grass Bamboo Anatomy

3 3.1 3.2

Historical Development Bamboo Industrialization

4 4.1

Bamboo Basics

Bamboo Uses

Bamboo’s Environmental Sustainability

6 9 15 25 30 33 37 40 43 49 56 59

4.2 4.3 4.4

The Environmental Balance Sheet The Debit and Credit Side of Sustainability Debit Side Environmental Impact of Bamboo Materials Credit Side Bamboo Resource Benefits Conclusion Weighing the Environmental Balance

5 5.1 5.1.1 5.1.2 5.1.3 5.1.4 5.2 5.2.1 5.2.2 5.2.3 5.2.4 5.3 5.3.1 5.3.2 5.3.3 5.4 5.4.1 5.4.2 5.4.3

Bamboo Stem Bamboo Section Bended Bamboo Cut Bamboo Flattened Bamboo Bamboo Strip Laminated Bamboo Strand Woven Bamboo – Indoor Use Strand Woven Bamboo – Outdoor Use Bamboo Composite Bamboo Sliver Woven Bamboo Coiled Bamboo Connected Bamboo Bamboo Chip Bamboo Fiber Board & Particle Board Bamboo Paper Bamboo Textile

6 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6

Structural Architecture Interior Furniture Sports and Mobility Product

134 136 148 158 168 174 182




Bamboo Technology

Bamboo Applications

61 71 77 78 82 84 86 88 94 96 98 104 108 112 114 116 118 120 124 126 128 130



The world of bamboo is fascinating, inspiring, pragmatic and yet far away. When Linda Garland, the late Queen of Bamboo, demonstrated this world of natural beauty to me, it was obvious that new life emerged in me. I could dream with my eyes wide open and wondered: “How can we ever reconcile the fact that about one billion people consider bamboo their symbol of poverty, and only a million revere bamboo as a symbol of natural art and sustainability, and perhaps only 10,000 consider bamboo their preferred choice of construction material?” I set out on a mission to construct the largest modern-day bamboo structure and show this extravagance of nature’s engineering to a large audience: the visitors to the World Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany. How would we convince the conservative construction engineers to grant a permit to a structure with a material and a building technique that they have never seen before? There was only one way: science. Thanks to Carolina Salazar and her team from Colombia we succeeded in this mission. Our ZERI bamboo pavilion (see page 144), designed by Simon Velez and built in 4 months by 41 Colombian artisans, welcomed 6.4 million people, who reveled at the sight of this 14 m high pavilion that dances with the rhythm of the earth. Bamboo is art combined with science and no one is left untouched by the sight of a dense bamboo forest or the marvels of a bamboo building. It is from within this unique space of hard facts and spirit that bamboo must be understood in our present-day world of spreadsheet-based

calculations with the objective to produce at an always lower cost and with an ever larger profit margin for a small number of people. If we only let the facts speak, we have insufficient logic to gather the attention for bamboo it so much deserves. Facts are solid, since a social housing project with bamboo can provide shelter, while the land required to grow and harvest the bamboo will be cleansed and supply drinking water to the same community, offering a never-ending cycle of carbon sequestration. But facts alone will not tip the balance: we must also open our hearts. This is why we need more bamboo ambassadors who speak from their deeper inside, who communicate through the Universe, and who ensure that tangible products are made available and can be enjoyed, both in function and with sight. Pablo van der Lugt is one of the unique players in this field. With his doctorate and engineering degrees, he incorporates the scientific perspective, but he also recognizes the wealth of bamboo beyond its mere functionality. Pablo starts from the hard facts of our predatory consumption patterns and the pervasive resource scarcity we are facing. Then he guides us through the technical details and finally opens up a world that is not only pleasing and soothing, it clearly embodies solutions our societies urgently need.

Prof. Gunter Pauli Author ‘The Blue Economy’ Founder Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives (ZERI)




Because of the growing world population, overconsumption and a take-make-waste economy we are heading towards an imminent resource problem. Only through a transition to a circular economy, with an important role for renewable, bio-based materials, will we be able to safeguard resources for future generations. This chapter explains the problem but also (part of) the solution.


Material Scarcity

Nog niet vrijgegeven


1.1 The Limitations of a Linear Economy

Addiction to Fossil-Based Resources and Non-Renewable Materials

Figure 1.1 The transition from renewable materials to non-renewable materials over time. 1.1 - 1.2 Morris’ curve describes the relative proportion of renewable, bio-based materials to minerals, Ashby’s curve describes the relative relative importance (based on global production) of renewable versus nonrenewable materials.

For thousands of years mankind lived in harmony with nature, sustaining a life built on renewable resources (wood, crops, animals, etc.) supplied by nature. Only in the past two centuries, since the Industrial Revolution, have we become dependent on fossil resources as a source of energy, while also using them for the production of high-tech non-renewable materials such as plastics, metals and minerals, that have largely replaced the once dominant renewable materials. The growing human population in combination with an increase in consumption per capita has directly led to an enormous growth in demand for materials (often non-renewable) and energy sources (often fossil-based). This unsustainable overconsumption, taking more from the earth than it can

Figure 1.1 - Trajectories of dependence - increasing addiction to non-renewable materials relative proportion of non-renewable to renewable materials (Ashby) relative proportion of minerals to bio-based materials in USA (Morris)

100% Metals become dominant Aluminum displaces wood Concrete displaces wood

8 tons minerals to 1 ton bio-based materials

75% Plastics replace natural fibers

Industrial Revolution begins; iron displaces wood 50%

Wrought iron displaces bronze

1 ton minerals to 2 tons bio-based materials

25% 2 tons minerals to 1 ton bio-based materials

Copper, bronze replace stone

0% -100000

1. Material Scarcity









In the Circular Economy model, real consumption only occurs in the bio-cycle based on renewable resources, also referred to as a ‘bio-based economy’. In a bio-based economy, we rely on biomass as resource for nonfood applications (building materials, chemicals and energy) instead of fossil resources. Biological or bio-based nutrients are consumed and encouraged to be recycled in various product cycles with as little as possible value loss at each step (known as ‘cascading’). Finally, they return as biological nutrients in the ecosystem as sources to regrow new feedstock. Because of the renewable character of the input resources (trees/plants), also short-cycle applications are sustainable – unlike in the techno-cycle – as long as the life cycle of the product is longer than the time to regrow the tree/plant.

Recycling 2.0 The opportunities that the momentum around the Circular Economy has created (‘Recycling 2.0’) have been mainly grasped by incumbent industries based on finite materials in the techno-cycle. This becomes apparent particularly in the building industry. Just a quick glance at the product registry of the certification system of the Circular Economy, Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification, shows a wealth of synthetic, metallic, plastic or stony building products and only a small number of bio-based building materials. The irony is that in general these bio-based building materials score a lot higher in the C2C certification system, showing better compliance with the Circular Economy than many products from the techno-cycle.

1. Material Scarcity

Extraction ore Ore mining severely impacts local eco-systems.

cascading For example, for wood this could be solid wood in the end-of-life phase being transformed into panels (e.g. MDF/particle board), which could then be composted, or burned in a biomass energy plant for green energy.

C2C product registry available online: products/registry



As one of the fastest growing plants in the world, bamboo is one of the key solutions to enable the transition towards a bio-based economy. This chapter explains the growth and distribution patterns of bamboo, as well as its efficient structural design in its natural form, the stem.


Bamboo Basics


2.2 Bamboo Anatomy

Efficient Mechanical Design of the Stem In the cross section of a bamboo stem we can identify cellulose fibers (40%), vascular bundles (10%) and the in-between parenchyma tissue (50%), which largely consists of lignin. The fibers and the parenchyma tissue together function as a composite material: the cellulose fibers make the bamboo strong, functioning as the reinforcement in the matrix of the thin-walled parenchyma cells, similar to steel in reinforced concrete. After about 4-5 years, the walls of the fiber cells have become mature and solid. Only then is the bamboo stem ready to be felled for construction purposes. For applications in which the fiber function is less important (such as bamboo pulp for the production of paper), the stem can be felled at an earlier stage. The fibers run in a longitudinal direction around the vascular bundles. The outer wall of the stem consists of a thin silica layer of 0.25 mm that protects the stem. The outer and inner walls of the stem are also covered with a waxy layer. The solid patches (see picture on page 38) are the cross-sections of the cellulose fibers. The distribution of fibers increases from the inside toward the outside, where they are most needed to absorb moments of force caused by mechanical loads (see picture on page 39), an excellent example of structural design from nature. Also in its basic form, a hollow tube, bamboo has an efficient natural structural design that offers some major advantages (see also box 2.1). However, although it may feel counter-intuitive, to enable wide-spread application of bamboo for structural applications in Western markets, the efficient tubular bamboo stem needs to be transformed to a standardized, often solid, engineered building material (see next chapter).

distribution of fibers According to Janssen, 2.1 the cellulose distribution in the stem increases from the inside toward the outside, resulting in a higher stiffness (E-modulus) at the outside (up to 21000 N/ mm2).

Chemical Composition and Structure Although the chemical compositions of bamboo and wood are practically identical, 2.2 the differences in anatomical composition are considerable. For instance, bamboo has no rays or knots. Furthermore, the bamboo stem is hollow compared to the solid stem of trees. Due to the large starch content of the bamboo stem it is often exposed to attacks from insects, termites and fungi, resulting in low durability. However, with good design measures (keeping the bamboo stem off the ground, not directly exposed to rain and sun) considerable lifespans can be reached even by building with the bamboo stem. The lifespan can be extended further if the bamboo is treated appropriately with preservatives or smoke/heat treatment (for more information, see Liese 2.3).

2. Bamboo Basics


Figure 2.2 - Comparison of strength and stiffness for various building materials 2.1 Strength / mass per volume Stiffness / mass per volume





Figure 2.3 - Efficient natural mechanical design of the bamboo stem 2.1

Efficient mechanical design From a mechanical point of view the material distribution through the cross-section of a bamboo stem is very efficient, similar to engineered man-made materials such a steel tubes or I-beams.

2. Bamboo Basics

Fiber distribution Cross-section of Moso bamboo showing the increasing amount of fiber bundles from inside to outside.



The traditional use of bamboo as building and crafts material dates back thousands years ago. This chapter explains the multitude of applications in which bamboo has been used historically, including the recent rise of the next generation of industrialized bamboo materials fuelling a new industry in various bamboo growing countries.


Bamboo Uses From Traditional Handicraft to Engineered Industrial Material


3.1 Historical Development

Well Embedded in Asian Culture and Tradition The Far East can pride itself on a long tradition of using bamboo. Bamboo is valued deeply within Asian cultures, for example as ‘Friend of the People’ (China) and ‘Brother’ (Vietnam), and is adopted in the Arts and Teahouse tradition in Japan. The history of the Chinese using bamboo for food, housing, transportation, musical instruments and weapons can be traced back to over 7000 years ago. This is also the reason why bamboo is valued so deeply in Chinese culture and literature, and explains why so many paintings and writings have been dedicated to this plant. 3.1

Scaffolding (left) Bamboo is used for scaffolding in Asia even during construction of skyscrapers.

In construction, bamboo has been used in Asia for centuries. Because of its excellent mechanical properties, it has been widely adopted for the construction of houses and bridges. One of the oldest bridges in the world, the Anjan bridge in China, was fully constructed out of bamboo before being replaced with steel cables at the end of the 20th century. In Asia, stems of bamboo are still being used extensively in scaffolding because of its light weight combined with excellent tensile and bending strength.

Poor Man’s Timber in Other Regions In other places in the world native to bamboo it is valued less. In Africa and Latin America, because of its ready availability and low cost, bamboo is often associated with poverty and known as ‘the poor man’s timber’. Even though in many cases living in a bamboo house is safer (earthquakes!) than in a small concrete house, people often prefer the latter out of social status considerations.

Bamboo’s Potential for Regional Socio-Economic Development Because of the often poor image of bamboo, awareness raising is required. In many bamboo-growing countries bamboo is often only known for its low value-added applications and its potential for higher value-added applications is not yet understood. To unleash this unexplored potential, knowledge and technology transfer from countries that develop high value-added bamboo products is required. This is crucial, as bamboo is often abundantly available (or can be easily planted) in poor rural communities, helping to meet local demands for housing and energy (e.g. charcoal) and at the same time act as an important driver for regional economic development. Since its establishment in 1997 the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) has played a pivotal role in this development by fostering South-South and North-South cooperation.

3. Bamboo Uses


Stigma – poor man’s timber Although an excellent material to resist earthquakes, bamboo is often considered an inferior construction material in various parts of the world.


Shooting hoops Bamboo’s versatility and proximity to millions of rural people means it has been used for local products and infrastructure for thousands of years.

Steam basket Historically one of the best known applications of bamboo: a steam basket.


The sustainability of a material can be measured based on its environmental impact (debit) or on its benefit (credit). This chapter explains in detail how industrial bamboo materials combine a low environmental impact with many beneficial features during growth and use, and thus provide an excellent alternative for carbon intensive, non-renewable materials.

Bamboo reforestation Reforestation project by Ecoplanet Bamboo in Nicaragua, 4 years after establishment, showing the fast establishment time of a bamboo plantation, even on degraded land. The project was certified following the voluntary carbon credit system VCS (project ID #1085), with a total GHG benefit of 830716 tons CO2 for 1235 certified hectares over a 20-year time frame. 4.7


Bamboo’s Environmental Sustainability


4.2 Debit Side

Environmental Impact of Bamboo Materials

Measuring the Carbon Footprint of Bamboo Materials Because of their rapid growth, good properties and wide applicability, giant bamboo species such as Phyllostachus Pubescens (Moso bamboo) are increasingly perceived as a high-performance bio-based alternative for incumbent building materials. However, the relatively long production process and transport distance could disturb the environmental profile. The environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions in this section is based on a recent INBAR LCA and carbon footprint study, 4.2 which was presented during the COP 21 climate conference in Paris, updated with the latest figures from the Idemat 2016 database. 4.5 Although the report also includes an LCA analysis (wider environmental scope), in this book we focus on CO2 emissions, as it is the most commonly used environmental indicator directly linked to climate change. Furthermore, the carbon footprint is very often indicative of the environmental costs in terms of LCA (which is also the case for the industrial bamboo materials). In this chapter, we will not go into detail, but readers interested in all relevant technical background information, are referred to INBAR Technical Report 35 4.2 and the Environmental Product Declarations of MOSO International. 4.3 The carbon footprint of bamboo materials was measured for the four main manufacturing technologies to produce engineered bamboo materials (see chapter 3.2): • • • •

flattened bamboo laminated bamboo strand woven bamboo (SWB) – indoor use thermally modified strand woven bamboo – outdoor use

These materials were assessed following a cradle-to-grave scenario, thus encompassing their full life cycle.

Emissions during Production To determine greenhouse gas emissions during production, all the steps in the chain need to be taken into account, from sourcing the materials from plantations in China, to processing, treating and pressing in the manufacturing plant, to final packing and shipping. This so-called ‘cradle-to-gate’ analysis was executed based on best-practice production figures from the company MOSO International BV.

4. Bamboo’s Environmental Sustainability


Figure 4.1 - Life cycle from cradle to grave of an engineered bamboo material

Reforestation potential Typical barren grassland in China that has been rehabilitated with bamboo during the past years.


Waste for energy Sawdust in bamboo processing factories is often reused to fuel the boiler that drives the drying chamber and presses, thus reducing consumption of fossil fuels in the factory.


Bamboo raw materials can be processed in various manual and industrial manners to create different kinds of semi-finished materials to be used in a large variety of applications (chapter 6). This chapter introduces the most important bamboo processing technologies, including their key advantages and disadvantages.

ChopValue This startup in Vancouver upcycles discarded bamboo chopsticks to high-quality laminated boards (for more information see chapter 6.6.5).


Bamboo Technology


Figure 5.0 - Transformation paths of bamboo stem to many engineered bamboo materials 5.1


5.1 SECTION 5.1.1






BENDED 5.1.2

CUT 5.1.3

















5.4 CHIP










PAPER 5.4.2





5. Bamboo Technology




WOVEN 5.3.1

COILED 5.3.2




Conbou ONA462 Search code: ONA462

To create this material, oblique cross-sections of the bamboo stem are positioned between thin cross-laminated bamboo veneer sheets. Through this cross-directional layering, the end material acquires a strong structure. The diagonally cut bamboo cross-sections are glued in alternate rows, facing opposite directions, thus creating a particularly resilient core, technologically reminiscent of a truss structure. The oblique cut face of the sections maximizes the available adhesive surface, thus providing optimal distribution of acting forces. The stability of a 35-mm Conbou Bamboo sandwich panel is equivalent to that of a 6-mm steel plate or a 23-mm plywood board, while only weighing a fraction of those materials. By Conbou



Bamboo 3D Panels PLA691 Search code: PLA691

Bamboo 3D panels are handmade by casting sliced bamboo stem sections in a translucent resin. The diagonally cut bamboo slices may be open or filled with a different color resin for a spatial effect. By changing the amount, size or direction of the bamboo ovals, the acoustic performance of the panels changes as well as the look and feel. Light enhances the translucency and patterning of the panels, making their effect as subtle or prominent as desired. By LAMA concept

5. Bamboo Technology - Bamboo Stem


5.4.1 Bamboo Fiber Board & Particle Board

Figure 5.4.1 - Bamboo fiber board & particle board

How It’s Made The production process of bamboo particle board and MDF is very similar to that of its wood-based counterpart. However, instead of using full trunks as input material (as is often the case in the wood industry), more often waste streams of other bamboo industries (preprocessing or final-product manufacturing factories) are used as feedstock. First of all the bamboo chips are washed, after which they are refined in a thermo-mechanical pulping process using steam to soften the chips. After this, they are grinded and mixed with resin. After drying, the fibers are formed and transported on a conveyor belt feeding a continuous hot press, which presses the bamboo chips into a uniform board of medium (approx. 700 kg/m3) or high (> 800 kg/m3) density. After formatting and conditioning, the MDF/HDF boards are ready for shipment. Production of bamboo particle board is similar, only the chips for particle board are larger, ranging from 1-5 mm in width/thickness and 1-20 mm in length, made through flake or hammer milling. It can be produced in a continuous press or in a multilayer press.

Application Area Bamboo fiber and particle boards are used in similar areas as wood fiber boards, i.e. for internal sheeting in the building industry but most commonly in furniture construction (cabinets), flooring underlayment and as nondecorative semi-structural panels.


Design Challenge A more innovative application of the bamboo fiber is as filler in granules suitable for 3D printing or compression molding, especially when combined with a bio-based resin such as PLA. This provides an eco-friendly, potentially fully bio-based alternative for plastics in multiple applications where biodegradability is an issue (e.g. biodegradable vases, packaging, temporary drainage sheets, etc.).


5. Bamboo Technology - Bamboo Chip





The various processing technologies introduced in chapter 5 lead to several exciting bamboo materials that can be applied in a multitude of novel applications in various industries. In our worldwide search for inspiring bamboo applications we came across far more examples then could fit in this book. Therefore we decided to select only the most breathtaking and inspiring projects and products. We hope that the examples in this book contribute to inspire you to adopt this magnificent material in your own projects and will lead to many more ground-breaking bamboo projects and products for a second edition!

Madrid international airport The spectacular curved ceiling of Madrid airport features 200,000 m2 of bamboo (for more information see section 6.3.4).


Bamboo Applications


6.1.4 Project German-Chinese House Location EXPO 2010, Shanghai Architect Markus Heinsdorff Nature and space are the principal themes in the work of international installation artist Markus Heinsdorff. The German-Chinese House constructed during EXPO 2010 is one of the first buildings in which engineered, laminated bamboo was used for the bearing structure. For the roof-supporting construction, Heinsdorff used 8-meter-long stems of Julong bamboo, a rare and particularly long type of bamboo from Southern China. Before use in the actual construction, the bamboo was treated with a special fire-retardant, earning it a certification for fire resistance. In the interior of the building, the artist used laminated bamboo beams. For both materials, new connecting and finishing techniques were used that were especially developed for this project. The supporting beams of the bamboo segments, measuring up to 6 m in length, made a self-supporting room possible on the upper floor. Connecting joints of steel on the roof hold the bamboo supporting-frame structure together. The building is completely mobile: it can be taken apart and reassembled elsewhere. All materials are either reusable or completely recyclable. Photos Nic Lehoux


6.2.5 Project Catholic University Lira Offices Location Santiago, Chile Architect Sabbagh Architects This spectacular curved building is located in the city center of Santiago, Chile. Sabbagh Architects, in collaboration with MOSO International and Hunter Douglas Chile, developed the new application of thermally modified strand woven bamboo (Bamboo X-treme) in window shutters. The 1200 m2 of bamboo shutter boards provide the building with a natural, flexible second skin. Photos Hunter Douglas Chile

6. Bamboo Applications - Architecture


6.6.2 Product Bulb Lamp Designer Studio Chris Kabel with Blendix Design & PACC A tiny LED light source illuminates a braided basket made out of waver-thin translucent bamboo strips, offering a light alternative to the traditional light bulb. The bamboo bulb (prototype) is a result of the project ‘The World of Bamboo’, a collaboration between Dutch product designers and Chinese bamboo craft masters. The project aims to develop new products with innovative designs based on traditional techniques such as weaving and braiding. Photos Studio Chris Kabel


6.6.9 Product Bamboo Packaging Designer Dell Regular paper/cardboard and plastic may be the most common packaging options, but they are not the only ones. Dell has pioneered the use of bamboo-based cardboard to protect certain devices and cushion some of its lightweight products. The bamboo used for this packaging material is grown close to the facilities that manufacture the products, which should further reduce the packaging-related carbon footprint. According to Dell, the bamboo packaging is easy to recycle and should even be compostable following ASTM standards. Photos Dell

6. Bamboo Applications - Product


Colophon Author: Pablo van der Lugt, Amsterdam Supervision: Els Zijlstra, MaterialDistrict, Naarden Text editing: Sybrand Zijlstra, Bandung, Indonesia Illustrations: Sylvia Machgeels, Delft Scheme lay-outing: vanRixtelvanderPut ontwerpers, Eindhoven Picture management: Sigrid Lussenburg, Naarden & José Luken, Zwaag Graphic design: vanRixtelvanderPut ontwerpers, Eindhoven Printing: Wilco Art Books, Amersfoort Publisher: Jeroen van Oostveen, MaterialDistrict, Naarden This publication is printed on FSC® certified paper Cover printed on Ensocoat 2s by Stora Enso

This publication was made possible by the support of: INBAR, International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation MOSO International B.V.

Publisher MaterialDistrict Naarden, The Netherlands +31 (0)20 71 30 650 © 2020 MaterialDistrict No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission in writing from the publisher. In the selection of text fragments and illustrations, the publisher has tried to comply with and honour existing copyrights as much as possible. Persons who feel that they have copyright claims are requested to contact the publisher.


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