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A look inside the world of rapidly renewable materials. 

Engineered Bamboo: Always The New Darling of Construction Materials - Could 24' be the Year?

It is an commonly discussed issue that building operation and construction account for 40% of global energy consumption. In light of this, architects and engineers have been exploring alternative materials beyond steel, concrete, and wood as the building primary structure. Engineered Bamboo has always captured the interest of researchers, engineers and architects, and year in and year out we hear how it is an emerging new construction material. With every passing year, the question persists, will this be the year. 

Although bamboo has been long misunderstood by the general population, it has been well known by professionals in industry to possess remarkable capabilities after undergoing engineering processing. For example, as early as 2012, Luke Schuette (ReNuteq), Chairman of ASTM Task Group, had successfully introduced LVB (a structural engineered bamboo) to ASTM International standard D5456, Specification for Evaluation of Structural Composite Lumber Products. From this point the engineered bamboo materials were then compliant and recognized by ICC-ES - AC47 and  Eurocode 5 - EN1995, and each year we had heard that this year was the year for the breakthrough - and yet engineered bamboo materials in structures remain a niche product with yet another year upon us - will 2024 be the year?

altPlus Engineered bamboo

Engineered bamboo, a "material of tomorrow"?

The challenge for “this year being the year”, has always been connected to two key points: 

A.Understanding the already available standards and how to apply them.

B.Product knowledge, consistency and supply ability.

Click to enlarge image

As the years have passed, like any new building material, engineered bamboo composites industry has continued to develop this base of information allowing for a comprehensive approach to specifying and sourcing EBC.

Structural Engineered Bamboo Composites (EBC) are a composite material made from bamboo with specific bamboo strand elements in material selection, grade, dimension, treatment and bonding requirements, resulting in performance controlled engineered materials. Although EBC is visibly similar to conventional laminated bamboo materials, they differ greatly in that extensive production of low-tech bamboo products are made with laminated bamboo materials without clear performance indicators which is not an engineered bamboo material in the sense of construction engineering. Therefore it is important that standards and product certifications are understood before initiating a program with EBC. 

Since the all important ASTM D5456 moment of 2012, professionals in regions around the world have been working to adapt, broaden and introduce local standards where needed. In China, the GB55005-2021 General code for timber structures has been used as it recognizes the ASTM D5456 structural composite lumbers catalogue of materials in its standard. However, due to the importance of bamboo as a resource in China, teams from around the world have been developing new standards with more specific engineered bamboo composite references to support local professionals and authorities in their drive to specify more EBC project applications.  In 2021, a team led by Huang Dongsheng, Professor & PhD, introduced the material standard in China T/CECS 10138—2021, Engineered Bamboo Composites and then continued to develop the material standard under ISO standard 23478:2022 Bamboo structures — Engineered bamboo products — Test methods for determination of physical and mechanical properties. Additionally, a Shanghai based international team led by Xu Qingfeng, PhD, has released three engineered bamboo composite standards for building in 2022: 

  • T/CECS 1101-2022, Standard for design of engineered bamboo structures

  • T/CECS 1102-2022, Standard for construction and acceptance of construction quality of engineered bamboo structures

  • T/CECS 1103-2022, Standard for inspection of engineered bamboo structure

So Where Do We Go from here? 

Source:C.C. Sullivan from AIA Continuing Education

With this increasing base of technical information and a new generation of production and supply ability coming to market, it does appear that the horizon is not so far away for greater scale in the volume of EBC materials being specified in programs around the world. altPlus is dedicated to this industry development in all aspects from specification-forest-manufacturing-to fit. It will not be done by altPlus alone and rather we support and encourage all in industry from manufacturers, design professionals and contractors to work together so that the acceleration of bamboo to market can be truly realized. 

As described by C.C. Sullivan from AIA Continuing Education, the main applications of engineered bamboo composites in structural systems are columns and beams, architectural structural glazing systems (entrances, roofs, facade systems), curtain walls, and floor-to-ceiling frames. Compared to traditional building products such as concrete or steel, engineered bamboo products (EBPs) and engineered wood products (EWPs) have inherent carbon storage capacity, lower embodied energy, and lower manufacturing carbon emission potential.

Advantages of engineered bamboo: 

  • Environmental friendliness: Engineered bamboo is a natural renewable material with a minimal environmental impact during production. Compared to traditional wood, engineered bamboo has lower energy consumption in production, reducing the consumption of forest resources.

  • High strength: Through special treatment and processing, engineered bamboo exhibits high strength and stiffness, meeting the requirements of building structures.

  • Durability: Engineered bamboo undergoes anti-rot treatment, providing good weather resistance and durability, allowing for long-term use in harsh environments.

  • Easy construction: Engineered bamboo is lightweight, easy to cut, and easy to join, facilitating construction and installation.

Bamboo as a building material creates breathtaking landscapes 

At the finish of 2023 there is no shortage of Architectural & Structural examples that demonstrate the feasibility and performance of Engineered Bamboo Composites. 

Madrid T4 Madrid Barajas Airport Source:RSH+P

Veterans Airport Source: C.C. Sullivan from AIA Continuing Education

Eurocampus Source:altPlus

Bangalore Airport's New Terminal Building T2 Source: MoCA

Throughout the global bamboo region, bamboo's strength, resilience, and accessibility have gradually made it a common modern building material. Now, bamboo is competing with conventional materials like steel and concrete as a construction material to address the current challenges of urbanization.

With the increasing emphasis on environmental protection and sustainable development, engineered bamboo will be more widely used as an eco-friendly construction material. It is projected that by 2024, the market share of engineered bamboo in the construction industry will further expand. Additionally, as technology continues to advance, the manufacturing process of engineered bamboo will become more advanced, leading to improved product quality and performance. 

Furthermore, the application of engineered bamboo in other fields, such as furniture manufacturing and landscape construction, will gradually expand and with more common knowledge we may just see that 2024 is the year!


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