Visiting Assistant Professor Sees Opportunities Using Laminated Bamboo in Construction
Utility NavTop NavContentLeft NavSite SearchSite SearchSite Search

Visiting Assistant Professor Sees Opportunities Using Laminated Bamboo in Construction

Bamboo constructionVisiting assistant professor and civil engineer Hernan Castaneda M‘16 sees large building possibilities in the vast fields of bamboo growing in his native country of Colombia. He’s experimenting with using the plant --technically considered a species of grass-- to create I-shaped construction beams traditionally made from steel and concrete. Castaneda hopes his research will help bamboo become a more accepted construction material worldwide, as an alternative sustainable building solution.

“It’s one of the fastest growing plants on earth,” says Castaneda, noting bamboo’s attractiveness as a sustainable building material. “It can reach a height of 50-100 feet and can grow up to 1 foot in 24 hours.” A similar crop of wood could take up to 40-75 years to grow.  And, bamboo is eco-friendly. It’s a lighter material and its manufacturing process demands low consumption of energy and low environmental impact.

Bamboo constructionBut, how does it go from being light enough to move with the wind to being stronger than timber products? Castaneda says it’s a combination of “the strong tension-resistant fibers of the bamboo culm, or stem, and using new bonding substances to glue sheets together.”  The stalks are cut into thin strips, smoothed, and glued together into laminated sheets. The finished product resembles sheets of plywood, and its tensile strength (its resistance to being pulled apart) has been tested to be greater than timber products.

Emerging technologies are also intersecting at just the right time. “In the last 20 years, the exploration of new sustainable and renewable materials for building applications has become an imperative research field in the global community.” says Castaneda. “New techniques use laminated bamboo sheets, instead of the natural cylindrical bamboo that would have a large variation in dimensions, mechanical properties, and difficulty in making connections.”

Castaneda also likes the idea of bamboo being more earthquake and hurricane resistant. To gain a more exact strength-to-weight ratio for his bamboo beams, he continues to test them using the University’s construction materials lab and the MTS Servohydraulic Test System, a high-force testing machine. He has received grants to present his research on the structural elements of bamboo at conferences in Arizona, Colorado, and Vienna.