Bamboo – The amazing grass – This plant has not stopped to fascinate me. Ever since. Is it because of the vivid green look. Or the soft feel or the sound of the bamboo trees as they rub against each other in the wind? I can’t really tell. One of the first time I saw a Bamboo forest was in the south of France a long time ago. Over time I kept learning more and more about this fabulous plant. The more I see and learn the more it keeps on impressing me. Somehow it seems similar like the magical Moringa tree with all those healthy features. Nature keeps on amazing me – every day.
Did you know that Bamboo is not even a tree but a grass type of grass. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. They grow over 30 meters in the height!
Bamboo was first found and used in China more than 5000 years ago. This is why the woody plant conjures up images of pandas eating shoots and leaves in the Orient. Even though its many uses are only just becoming widely known, the bamboo plant as an alternative material began long before “going green” became a trend.
Fastest growing plants
Bamboos are also one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Certain species of bamboo can grow 90 cm within one day, at a rate of 3 cm/h. This is a growth of approximately 1 millimeter every 2 minutes. Although most varieties grow about 5 cm a day, and will reach their full height within one growing season.
Bamboo grow, not by division, but by elongation. That elongation can occur much faster than if it occurred by mitotic cell division. The strategy of growth by elongation is common among grasses. This is partly why grass lawns can grow back, just a week after mowing.
Over 1000 species of Bamboo
There are somewhere around 1600 different species of bamboo. In the tribe Bambuseae also known as Bamboo, there are 91 genera and over 1,000 species. The size of bamboo varies from small annuals to giant timber bamboo. Bamboo evolved only 30 to 40 million years ago, after the demise of the dinosaurs. The last new species of bamboo was discovered in 2007 in North America. The only way to really classify the plant is by comparing the flowers.
Did you know that Bamboo produces 35% more Oxygen than Trees?
If you took two identical acreage plots and planted hardwoods trees in one and bamboo in the other, the bamboo plot would put out 35% more oxygen into the air than the hardwood plant. Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and creates oxygen.
Pesticide and Fertilizer Free
Another amazing fact about the Bamboo is that it requires no fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides. Unlike most cash crops, bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Unlike cotton, which is one of the most intensely sprayed crops in the world and rapidly depletes the nutrients in the soil, bamboo sequesters nitrogen and cultivation does not add chemicals to the environment.
Image: Green Bamboo leaves with the blue sky in Switzerland
Once hardwood forests are clear-cut and the stumps are burned to provide fertilizer and space for growing crops, erosion inevitably occurs as the topsoil and nutrients are washed away by rainfall. The eroded soil then clogs rivers and streams and affects the lives of people and animals living downstream. Unlike most tree species, harvesting does not kill the bamboo, so topsoil erosion and other adverse effects of tree-felling are kept to a minimum.
Bamboo Strength Surpasses Steel
When people say bamboo is stronger than steel, they’re referring to its tensile strength. Tensile strength refers to a material’s ability to withstand stress. Bamboo’s tensile strength is 28,000 per square inch, while steel rates only 23,000 per square inch. That’s why bamboo is used as a building material in areas often wrought with earthquakes.
Did you know that Bamboo is Antibacterial?
Bamboo as a plant in nature is actually antibacterial, and has the ability to withstand some of the most vociferous bacteria out there. Some studies even show that products made from bamboo, such as 100% bamboo sheets, even retain those antimicrobial properties, and have the ability to kill harsh bacteria such as those that cause Strep Throat.
Bamboo fabrics are good for the environment and super soft on baby skin. It’s win-win. Known for it’s UV protection, antibacterial properties (the clothes won’t smell) and naturally hypoallergenic – bamboo is the grass of the future!
Things made out of Bamboo
Bamboo is finally being utilized in all walks of life. From dishware to clothing, you can find a bamboo alternative in almost every industry. In today’s environmentally conscious society, we have finally begun to utilize bamboo across the board… And people are still discovering new applications everyday, bamboo fiber for the garment and automotive industries, etc.
Bridge at the Green School (Bali)
Image: Overseen by Indonesian firm PT Bamboo Pure, students of the Green School in Bali and visitors constructed a bamboo bridge in only four months! The hand-built Millennium Bridge consists of 192 bamboo poles to symbolize the world’s numerous countries and was entirely funded by donations. The team not only used local materials, but also implemented ancient and traditional building techniques, including a lalang-alang thatched grass roof.
„Bamboo – from poor men’s timber into green gold!“ quote Prof. Dr. Walter Liese
There is a great blog article in spanish I can recommend from the Architecture Maria Perez about Bamboo Architecture here: http://www.mimbrea.com/arquitectura-de-bambu
Bamboo Architecture has been in use for thousands of years as a building material. The past few decades have allowed for innovations that protect bamboo structures from rain and insects. Using borax to treat the bamboo turns it into a viable building material, and a properly treated and designed beam can last one hundred years.
Arata Isozaki is a Japanese architect from Ōita. Probably the best example of bamboo in his design is the striking entrance to the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan.
Renzo Piano is an Italian architect from Italy. Probably the best example of bamboo in his architecture is the Tjibaou Cultural Center on the island of New Caledonia in the south Pacific islands of Melanesia.
Richard Buckminster Fuller was an American architect. His most famous achievement was conceiving, designing, and constructing the Geodesic Dome. He saw bamboo as a sustainable and quickly renewable resource for building materials. He died in 1983 while at his dying wife’s bedside.
Frei Paul Otto was a German architect. Like Buckminster Fuller, Otto was driven by the possibilities of using light materials, such as bamboo, in construction projects and pioneered new designs and construction methods for pavilions and structures of all kinds.
This Colombian Architect is known as using Bamboo as an essential building component. Also for his aesthetic and technical innovations in bamboo which have enhanced the material construction potential and challenged mainstream architectural trends.
Image: ZERI Pavilion prototype in Manizales, Columbia. Design by Simon Velez
For the EXPO Hanover 2000 in Germany, the Colombian Architect Simon Velez designed and constructed a 2000-square-meter bamboo pavilion for ZERI (zero emissions research initiative). Funny fact is the Germans did not accept it at first and Architect Simon Velez had to build a 1:1 prototype in Manizales Colombia so that the German “Experts” where able to see the Pavillon with their own eyes…