Material Monday Sustainable Series Material - Eco Excite: Bamboo

Material Monday Sustainable Series Material - Eco Excite: Bamboo

Posted 17 June by Katie Kubrak

In one of our recent articles we wrote about the importance of understanding the lifecycle of the material for the purpose of defining its impact on the environment (link to the full article here). There, we mentioned that lifecycle can be broken down into four key elements: raw material, manufacturing, use and disposal. This Material Monday we employ this framework, while looking into Bamboo.

Raw Material (combines Lifecycle Assessment + Cradle 2 Cradle perspectives)

  • Belongs to the grasses, i.e. natural material
  • Practically identical composition to wood, e.g. cellulose fibres, i.e. can also be used for paper manufacturing
  • Unsurpassed growing speed (up to 30m height in couple of months), i.e. renewable material
  • Bamboo plantations can be sustainably harvested every year without depleting the resource, i.e. renewable material
  • Bamboo absorbs large amount of CO2 due to fast growth and provides oxygen in return, i.e. atmosphere friendly material
  • About 1600 species, each offers slightly different properties in terms of strength or durability, i.e. application variety
  • For durable materials fit for building industry Bamboo stem can only be harvested after 5 years when it’s stem reaches maturity
  • Due to hollow structure it offers material saving without the compromise of performance, i.e. material saving + material efficiency
  • Certification: Bamboo (even though not a tree) can be FSC Certified
  • Overall properties:
    • excellent mechanical properties,
    • excellent tensile and bending strength,
    • readily available,
    • low cost.

Manufacturing (i.e. Production and Processing)

  • Ensure to account for the transportation impact on material’s carbon footprint
  • In most instances traditional methods or processing the material:
    • will be performed locally, i.e. minimal transport
    • will utilise hand processing rather than machine manufacturing, i.e. minimal energy consumption and toxic fumes output
  • Engineered Industrial Material
    • Processing strips into industrial applications, e.g. flooring, decorative, window frames, furniture
    • Processing fibres into industrial applications, e.g. paper, textiles
  • Overall Bamboo stem can be:
    • Bended,
    • Cut into pieces,
    • Flattened,
    • Laminated,
    • Strand woven (indoor + outdoor use),
    • Woven,
    • Coiled,
  • Overall Bamboo stem can be processed into a:
    • Composite,
    • Fibre board / Particle board,
    • Paper,
    • Textile.

Use

  • Traditional: food, housing, transportation, musical instruments, weapons
  • Scaffolding in Asia during skyscraper construction
  • Engineered Industrial Material applications span across consumer products for interiors, retail, fashion, packaging, architecture, furniture, product, sports and mobility
  • For more please read: ‘The Book of Bamboo’ which lists 1546 different applications of Bamboo (Farrely, D.: 1984)

Disposal

  • Depends on application and if material was laminated (laminate’s lifecycle is crucial to understand)
  • To exemplify:
    • if it is in form of paper (cellulose fibres-based material) therefore it can be recycled alongside papers made out of wood (cellulose fibres-based material too)
    • if it is in the form of a ‘block’ it could be re-used, repurposed into a new product and used for energy recovery through incineration or heating the house

Once all of the above elements are de-mystified and understood, the design process can begin, so that the sustainable story is shaped to the benefit of environment, user, social impact, functionality and brand. Some of the notable examples are featured below.

Do let us know if you found this of interest and please do not hesitate to get in touch should you have any questions! We’re here to try to tailor this information to you and your specific needs, so definitely don’t be a stranger if you find yourself scratching a head and wondering “What if?”.

Above: Bamboo Textile

Above: Bamboo (woven and cut) dyed in Purple.

Above: Cut & Coloured Bamboo panels.

Above: Zero Carbon Building Bamboo Pavilion

Above: Lock coffee table by J.P. Meulendijks

Above: Phoenix Concept Car by Kenneth Cabonpue & Albrecht Birkner.

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