Bamboo According to Researchers and Architects

Today we discuss about bamboo in the eyes of researchers. In this article, our conversation won’t far from the development of research on bamboo in many places. Hopefully it won’t be boring to read.. 🙂

Talk about research often will make many people who are invited to talk/chat feel sleepy. This has become a reality, a kind of law of nature that runs constantly and automatically. This is because to talk about research may force someone to think, and the process of thinking itself is a heavy work. Especially if that activity coupled with reading activity.

However, to keep this article from being boring, I will try to write the article by breaking it into shorter sections to make it easier to read.

Well, after I tried to explore articles and pages in several scientific journals, subjectively I differentiate it into three groups which are: Bamboo as Bamboo, Bamboo as Material, and Bamboo as Medium.

Bamboo as Bamboo

“Bamboo as Bamboo” in this context refer to researchs that discuss the bamboo itself. This can be found for example in research on bamboo from the point of view of a botanist or an agricultural expert. Although the point of discussion is the focus on bamboo itself, but research in this group sometimes still relevant to aspects of the use of bamboo as a material. Some research in this group for example:

  • “Anatomy of Bamboo” – Research on bamboo anatomy.

W. Liese’s article from the Institute for Wood Biology and Wood Preservation, Germany, focuses on the anatomy and properties of bamboo stems. Liese presents a brief explanation of the anatomical structures of bamboo stems, especially those related to bamboo tube and bone marrow. [1]

In his explanation, Liese showed that as part of a family of grasses, a bamboo stem that extends with the outside of the stem is coated with one layer of epidermal cells makes it difficult for fluids to flow in and out or move between them (this is related to bamboo chemical preservation techniques ).

Characteristically, according to Liese, the ratio of the number of parenchyma cells forming the basic tissues of bamboo stems, fibers, and the number of vessel channels is 50%: 40%: 10% [1]. Inside the bamboo rod itself, the number of outer vessel channels is more / denser than the number of vascular tubes on the inside of the stem. This implies the inside of the rods more densely packed with parenchyma tissue and also fiber. In addition, the number of vessels and parenchymal tissue decreases from root to shoot, leaving more fiber tissue on the bamboo shoots. [1] The natural bamboo fiber (natural cellulose) has several benefits and can be developed as a building material or fabric.

  • “Bamboo Cultivation” – Research on bamboo planting.

This research by Etsuzo Uchimura explains the basics of bamboo cultivation / development, especially as applicable in Japan. One important thing to be considered in the planting of bamboo, according to Uchimura, is: the conditions of bamboo planting / bamboo forest conditions.

One of the things to note in determining the exact location of bamboo planting is the temperature of the location, where different species / species of bamboo require different life temperatures. Uchimura exemplifies with two types of bamboo, P. bambusoides and P. pubescens, where the first species can not withstand temperatures below -5 ° C, while the second species will only live optimally in the temperature range -3 ° C to 33 ° C.

In addition, the rainfall level at the planting site (in the context of this study, in Japan) should range between 100mm at the time of the initial growth of bamboo shoots and 200mm at the time the roots of the bamboo fiber begin to grow (late summer). The total rainfall level per year should not exceed 1000mm. [2]

  • “Aspects of Bamboo Agronomy” – Research on aspects of bamboo growth.

The paper, which is the result of research by Volker Kleinhenz and David J. Midmore of Plant Sciences Group, Australia, discusses bamboo growth engineering and growth environment management for bamboo production.

One of the things discussed in this paper is farming techniques / bamboo planting, among others: management of bamboo stem cultivation density, and age of bamboo during harvest. The optimal density of planting of bamboo stems is usually closely related to the diameter of the stems on each type of bamboo grown. Optimal planting density varies depending on: diameter of bamboo stems (by type), fertility and suitability of land, intensive or absence of planting. [3]

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In addition, Kleinhenz & Midmore saw that the age structure of bamboo in a forest / bamboo garden also became one of the determinants of the productivity of bamboo produced. Engineering of the age structure of bamboo stands can be guarded by bamboo logging whose age is not suitable with the age of most existing bamboo. This will maintain the uniformity of the bamboo age structure so that growth rates, photosynthesis, and various bamboo growth characteristics can be better preserved. [3]

Bamboo as Material

Bamboo as a Material in this context discusses bamboo especially in relation to material (building, structure, furniture). It is commonly encountered in research and papers on bamboo as an ingredient in special construction technique, the use of bamboo with other materials (wood, steel / iron, etc.), as well as bamboo utilization to make intermediate materials (bamboo is not applied directly as construction material but used for basic materials to produce material from bamboo). Some interesting research in this group include:

  • “Bamboo in Construction” – Research on bamboo in construction.

In this paper, D.L. Jayanetti & P.R. Follett argued that bamboo is one of the most promising construction materials in the future. Although the use of bamboo as a building material is limited to some weaknesses, the use of bamboo in the future becomes an interesting alternative considering the wood material contained in nature is increasingly limited. The weaknesses of bamboo discussed in this paper include the natural resistance of bamboo to the weather (so often only used for temporary buildings), material characters that have limited structural strength levels (so often considered as low-grade construction materials), easy burning bamboo, and degree of difficulty in making bamboo connection structures. [4]

This paper describes the use of bamboo for several parts of the building such as: foundation (bamboo foundation directly in contact with the ground, bamboo foundation above stone or concrete, bamboo foundation planted in concrete, bamboo foundation in steel, and bamboo as concrete reinforcement element) bamboo flooring structure, bamboo as deck), wall (bamboo panel, vertical / horizontal bamboo rod, bamboo weave / gedhek, bamboo plaster), roof (bamboo shingle), and doors and windows.

In addition, this paper also discusses the protection of bamboo as a building material. The protection that can be done for the building parts made of bamboo materials include: protection in terms of design (keep bamboo dry, keep the bamboo from direct contact with the ground, keep the air circulation good, and keep bamboo in a position that is easily visible so that control / monitoring can be done periodically), as well as protection in the form of preservation / preservation of bamboo. [4]

Meanwhile, bamboo applications in the construction of buildings other than residential buildings according to Jayanetti & Follett can be divided into four, namely bamboo used in the construction of bridges, scaffolding, bamboo repeated concrete, and panels (made of) bamboo.

  • “Engineered bamboo as a building material” – Comparable research of bamboo comparation technically and bamboo processed in general as building material.

In this paper, S.K. Paudel explained some of the advantages and disadvantages of using bamboo (“processed” and “unprocessed”) as building materials. Some of the benefits that can be obtained from the use of bamboo as a home material include: a) for bamboo that is not processed technically some of its advantages that does not require large investments, offering flexible design, and does not require certain technical standards that can be applied in various locations where there are adequate bamboo materials; Meanwhile, b) bamboo materials which are technically processed, some of the advantages are able to use various types of bamboo (mixture), the quality can be standardized, the production can be done in large quantities, and the design can be made modular and prefabricated. [5]

While the cons, according to Paudel are: a) for bamboo that is not processed technically / industrially, among other types of bamboo that can be used limited, the absence of good quality control (type, age, size, etc.), durability of bamboo is difficult to predict, difficult to produce many homes in a relatively short span of time. As for b) bamboo that is processed some of the losses that can arise, among others, it requires considerable capital for utilization, bamboo production as raw material must be constant in order to meet the needs of production on an industrial scale. [5]

  • “Bamboo Plywood – A New Product of Structural Materials with High Strength Properties” – Research on bamboo boards and comparisons with other wooden planks.
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The paper, written by Chen Guiseng, describes the benefits of bamboo when it is made into plywood panels, and compares it with other plywood panels made from Oak wood, particle board, and oriented strand composite plywood (OSCP). The strength of the bamboo plywood panel itself is in the modulus of rupture (MOR) or bending strength of 1.175 Kg / cm² slightly below the MOR value of Chinese Oak (1.506 Kg / cm²) and American Oak (1.655 Kg / cm²). [6]

Meanwhile, the modulus of elasticity (MOE) of bamboo panel is also the highest among the other four materials, which indicates the strength / rigidity of this panel is quite good. In addition to these advantages, bamboo panels are also good enough to function as a thermal insulator during cold or hot weather. By combining bamboo with resin during bamboo panel manufacturing process, reduce the risk of damaged bamboo panel due to moisture and also bamboo insect attack. [6]

Bamboo as Medium

Well, the last group is more about Bamboo as a Medium. Bamboo as a medium in this context is slightly different from bamboo as a construction material. In this section we will look at some researches especially those of researchers-architects (researchers with the background of architecture and art), so we will see bamboo not only as material but also see bamboo in terms of aesthetics as well as characters / soul “(impression, texture, color, shape, nuance, aroma, etc.). Some research in this group include:

  • “Adaptive architecture in rhizomatous plants” – Research which, although published in botanical journals, is interesting to the architects because this research examined the pattern of branches in rooted plants.

Bamboo is one of the fibrous plants that have a rhizome system so I see this paper quite interesting, although it is not directly related to the utilization of bamboo characters in architecture. Paper by A.D. Bell and P.B. Tomlinson examines several rhizome species with some unique morphological characters (octagonal grids, hexagonal grids, and linear systems). [7] The geometric shapes of the stems and branches of each rhizome system are interesting and mathematically analyzed and simulated in form with the computer. Geometric shapes formed in nature are very commonly adopted in famous architectural works and are usually timeless.

  • “The Development of Sound Absorbing Materials using Natural Bamboo Fibres” – Research on bamboo as a natural ingredient for acoustic design.

In this paper, T. Koizumi, N. Tsujiuchi, A. Adachi discusses the development of new materials with acoustic capabilities (absorbing sound waves) on the basis of consideration to protect environmental sustainability. In this study proved that bamboo fiber has acoustic properties equivalent to glass wool (a material commonly used as a silencer in buildings). [8]

Well .. hopefully this information is beneficial for you. Last but not least, I linked a video from youtube about bamboo research at MIT. Enjoy watching!




[1] Liese, W. (1980). Anatomy of bamboo. In Bamboo research in Asia: proceedings of a workshop held in Singapore, 28-30 May 1980. IDRC, Ottawa, ON, CA.

[2] Uchimura, E. (1980). Bamboo cultivation. In Bamboo research in Asia: proceedings of a workshop held in Singapore, 28-30 May 1980. IDRC, Ottawa, ON, CA.

[3] Kleinhenz, V., & Midmore, D. J. (2001). Aspects of bamboo agronomy.Advances in agronomy, 74, 99-153.

[4] Jayanetti, D. L., & Follett, P. R. (2008, September). Bamboo in construction. In Modern Bamboo Structures: Proceedings of the First International Conference (pp. 23-32). Taylor and Francis Group, London.

[5] Paudel, S. K. (2008). Engineered bamboo as a building material.Modern Bamboo Structures (Xiao Y, Inoue M and Paudel SK (eds)). CRC Press (Taylor and Francis Group), London, UK, 33-40.

[6] Chen, G. H. (1985). Bamboo plywood. A new product of structural material with high strength properties. InProceedings of the 2nd International Bamboo Workshop, Hangzhou, China, 1985.

[7] Bell, A. D., & Tomlinson, P. B. (1980). Adaptive architecture in rhizomatous plants. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society,80(2), 125-160.

[8] Koizumi, T., Tsujiuchi, N., & Adachi, A. (2002). The development of sound absorbing materials using natural bamboo fibers. WIT Transactions on The Built Environment, 59.

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