Structural Bamboo Composites

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Helen Mulligan
Tel: 01223 460475

The aim of this project has been to establish the properties of natural bamboo, and of engineered composites made from it.

Conventional building materials can have a big impact on global warming: concrete alone accounts for 5% of global CO2 emissions. Our project established the properties of green building products based on bamboo - a fast growing, renewable material which has not been utilised to its full potential in modern construction.

These products are comparable to timber-based materials such as glulam, plywood and oriented strand board - but the structural strength, and thermal properties such as conductivity, capacitance and moisture permeability of bamboo equivalents had not been thoroughly investigated.

In recognition of its international scope, the project was funded by the Research Councils of the G8 to support research by partner institutions in three member countries:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA): microstructure and mechanical properties of raw bamboo culm material

University of British Columbia (Canada): methods for stranding bamboo culms, manufacture of bamboo composites with uniform, predictable and dependable strength and mechanical properties

CAR/Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge (UK): thermal behaviour and embodied energy; structural performance and jointing systems; development of construction codes of practice for structural bamboo composites

Additionally, we collaborated with researchers in countries such as China, Brazil and Colombia, where suitable bamboo species are grown for use in building applications.

The project successfully established the credentials of bamboo products and their suitability for a wide range of applications in construction. Based on our work, international building codes dealing explicitly with their structural properties are under development – which will open the door to the much wider use of these low-carbon materials.

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