Bamboo: The Green Reinforcement

The Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore is currently investigating, with some very promising results, the replacement of steel as a reinforcing material in concrete with bamboo.

As a substitute for steel reinforcement, bamboo offers some great environmental advantages. Bamboo is not only a fast-growing woody plant that removes C02 from the air, it can also grow in diverse climates and even restore degraded land. Bamboo additionally offers particular benefits to developing countries that rely on importing steel by offering a locally grown alternative.

Bamboo has been used for centuries as a construction material, but only in the twentieth century was bamboo first investigated bamboo as an alternative to steel in concrete. That research, however, initially led to disappointing results because in its natural untreated form, bamboo has not proven to be a great reinforcing material.

Prof Dirk E. Hebel and the researchers at the Future Cities Laboratory, however, have developed a patented pretreatment process that makes bamboo more suitable for use in concrete. The bamboo is first subjected to a carbonization process, then dried, and finally impregnated with specially developed, water-soluble resin. Subsequently, the material is pressed into the desired shape.

Bamboo has been used for centuries as a design material. Recently however, applications for bamboo in the built environment have been rapidly expanding from pavilions to even a bamboo skyscraper.

Given the enormous amount of concrete and steel reinforcement used around the world each year, bamboo is literally showing unlimited potential for growth in the green construction industry.