Concrete reinforced with bamboo can replace steel in developing countries

Bamboo has been used in construction for many years. Given its outstanding tensile properties, replacing steel reinforcement in reinforced structural concrete with bamboo is of high interest to many architects in countries without their own steel industries. 

It is a hardy, fast growing plant that is particularly well suited to those global climate zones that are host to a large proportion of emerging economies.

The natural form of bamboo poses many problems when it is used as reinforcement in concrete. Bamboo, if left untreated, can swell with water and rot. Shrinkage and long-term durability are some of the drawbacks of using natural bamboo in structural concrete, which result in its segregation from concrete matrix. As a result, it hasn’t been used to reinforce concrete with much success—at least not until now

To overcome those issues, a new bamboo composite material has been developed at the Swiss federal Institute of Technology Zurich.  The material, BambooTECH, is strong and highly versatile, and could serve as an effective replacement for steel in reinforced concrete. It has a high tensile capacity and performs well long-term in a concrete matrix.

The Zurich Institute  believes the sturdy grass plant is also highly viable as a sustainable, economic substitute for steel in reinforced concrete structures. It has the potential to provide an alternative to the monopoly of reinforced concrete.

Bamboo possesses some of the same sustainability benefits as timber when employed as a building material, because as a form of plant matter, it is a completely renewable resource that can be rapidly replenished by means of natural processes. Unlike timber, the harvesting of bamboo does not destroy the plant that produced it, because the root system is left unaffected in the soil.

A new method has been developed for incorporating bamboo into reinforced concrete, making it a more effective replacement material for steel when it comes to shoring up structural strength.

The plant’s natural fibres are extracted before combining them with an organic resin.

This composite material, termed BambooTECH, is highly versatile and lends itself to tooling and manipulation in a manner similar timber once it is pressed into shape.

When fashioned into thin rods, the composite material can be used as the reinforcing structural matrix for concrete in the same way as steel.

Further information

April 8, 2016