Once known primarily as a cabinetry or flooring material, bamboo is now the subject of renewed interest among builders.
The material is sustainable and versatile, making it popular with environmentalists as well as contractors and home improvement DIYers. While it takes a tree 20 to 150 years to mature, bamboo, which is technically a grass, matures in three to five years.
One reason for the growing demand for the material is that it is now available in the form of dimensional lumber known as “Lumboo.” In this form, the plant is stronger than many types of lumber, according to The Deck & Fence Company, of Ottawa, Canada.
San Diego, California-based company CaliBamboo spent four years developing Lumboo before offering the product for sale. At the moment, the company offers composite decking and plywood, as well as poles, paneling and flooring in addition to the fencing material.
Lumboo is manufactured from 100 percent compressed bamboo. The process includes shredding the poles into strips and configuring them into a matrix offering the highest possible structural integrity. After adding resin, manufacturers compress the material under several hundred thousand pounds of force using a hydraulic press. The result is stronger than typical building lumber.
The plant’s natural silica content makes Lumboo resistant to termites and other insects. Lumboo is available in 1×4, 2×4, 2×6 and 4×4 dimensions starting at roughly $5 each.
Even standard bamboo is gaining in popularity as a building material. A recent study by Navigant Research, of Boulder, Colorado, indicates that green materials are making a strong comeback in the building industry. Builders are attracted to the sustainable harvest practices used with the material as well as its general strength and versatility, according to researchers.
The plant can be used to build entire houses. Its structural integrity and excellent strength-weight ratio are making it increasingly popular among Western architects. Add flexibility to its qualities, and it is easy to see how the material is relatively earthquake resistant. This makes it a favorite of engineers as well.
The trend has caught on to the point that the consumer can even buy a green, international building code-approved bamboo prefabricated home.