Category Archives: Building and Home Renovation

Bamboo in architecture, building and construction, and home renovation

Activated Bamboo Carbon

Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, activated coal, or carbo activatus, is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption.” 

activated carbon, activated bamboo charcoalHmmm, so? Bamboo is just one material used to make activated carbon. Activated carbon has special qualities over plain old charcoal. Adsorption is the key here. Adsorption is the binding of molecules or particles to a surface, as distinguished from absorption, the filling of pores in a solid. Activating carbon gives it high degree of microporosity, increasing the surface area so just one gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 500 m2.

Activated carbon has many industrial applications, but probably the best known use is medical. The adsorptive qualities can treat some poisonings and overdoses. It’s so important that it appears on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. For everyday personal use the list of activated bamboo charcoal is extensive: odours, soap, humidity, water filtration, baking, face masks, indigestion, toothpaste, insoles for shoes….

The list of products on Amazon goes on for pages, (but not every item will ship to Australia). Ebay au has a smaller but still diverse range of activated bamboo charcoal products. The most popular products seem to be the air freshening/odour absorbing ones. There is range that comes wrapped in hemp bags – much more attractive than the plain black bag I picked up at the Bamboo Festival. There are some pretty ones on eBay au though, as well as some disguised as dogs. Maybe stuffed dogs in the back windows of cars are really there for a purpose?

The most interesting looking product, I think, is the food-grade powder. Or maybe the tooth and gum powder. With the powder on hand, you could make your bamboo charcoal soap, use it to make bamboo charcoal bread, treat indigestion and certain poisoning events, or whatever you can think of.

In case you are wondering, activated carbon is usually made from charcoal and, increasingly, high-porosity biochar, both of which can be produced with mature bamboo. Two different processes may be used: physical reactivation and chemical activation. There is a Wikipedia entry that explains the processes.

Reference list:
Activated carbon
Adsorption

Bamboo on the Internet for July, 2014 – my picks

bamboo shinguardsBamboo on the Internet for July (and some of June):

  • This deserves to come first. A wonderfully simple and effective idea: Bamboo shinguards for soccer players. Time is running out for your opportunity to invest in the project on Kickstarter (18 August).
bamboo modern japanese

Bamboo in modern Japanese architecture. Click on the image for more.

bamboo building

  • Inspired by tepees? This triangular modular hotel made with bamboo is getting lots of attention. The design is a flexible system allowing the bamboo structure to be expanded horizontally and vertically, they say. It’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t feel every movement within the building.
  • Another take on expand-as-needed architecture is inspired by bamboo scaffolding.

bamboo scaffolding buildingJust add more floors as required, using waste from other offices. “Each floor is made from an interlaced network of tube framing, with construction building materials being sourced from waste material produced by the offices, namely paper and plastics.

  • One for the painters: here is a review of a bamboo brush box. It gets a 4.8 (out of 5) star rating on Amazon.

bamboo hospital

  • A new hospital in India is clad with bamboo. The bamboo “acts as a natural insulator and allows the hospital to do away with air conditioning in common areas such as lobbies and receptionThis resulted in saving electricity and reducing maintenance cost.” It looks good too.
  • Here is a short video clip about the construction of a traditional Hong Kong bamboo installation. The ‘flower plaque’ is part of the Smithsonian Institutes 2014 Folklife Festival. Learn more about flower plaques here and here.

zchair

  • Precision computerised joinery and high-tech adhesives are all that hold these bamboo chairs together. There’s also some nesting tables of a similar construction.
  • In case you missed the YouTube vids of the awesome rocket festival in Northern Thailand here is a link. Not for the faint hearted.

woodford bamboo tunnel

  • Colossal has published photos of Wang Wen-Chih’s finished bamboo entry tunnel (mentioned here back in October) at the Woodford Folk Festival site.

 

Democratising Bamboo

The International Bamboo Conclave is on this weekend (22-23 Feb, 2014). Lucky you if you’re in Bangalore (India). Head out to the University of Agricultural Sciences.


The gathering provides a forum to promote bamboo for integrated development. There are technical sessions and an exhibition of products. Experts have gathered to discuss policy issues, innovative technologies, its use in buildings, furniture, handicrafts and other cottage industries, skill development in the bamboo sector, and global trends.

India is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world, next to China. India has 128 bamboo species belonging to 18 genera. They make up 12.8 per cent of the total forest area in India.

democratic bambooThe conclave brings to light why growing bamboo makes socio-economic sense. Architect and member of the Bamboo Society of India, Neelam Manjunath says “housing for the poor should be seriously thought over, as bamboo can be the best substitute to concrete. It can replace 70 per cent of steel and wood used in construction, and bring down the costs by nearly 40 per cent.”

For all the potential benefits, India lags in utilising bamboo. Apparently it all started with the British calling it the ‘poor man’s timber.’ Current government policies are not helping either. Bamboo is classified as timber in many states and permits are needed to harvest it. The Indian Forest Act effectively provides the forest department a monopoly over bamboo and creates opportunities for corruption and harassment.

Bamboo has the potential to generate economic wealth – sustainable and equitable development. Imagine if bamboo was put in the hands of the local people? To grow, to harvest and to add value? People determining and influencing their own future? Sounds democratic to me. What do you think?

Sources:

Bamboo on the Internet for January 2014 – my picks

bamboo portable laptop deskCult of Mac reviews the bamboo AirDesk – A laptop tray/portable laptop desk with a mouse pad, and slot for your iPhone or iPad mini. And its available on Amazon.  Why only Macs?

The AirDesk would match the very stylish Chisel iPhone dock. Reviewed by Into Mobile and available for iPhone 4 and 5 on Amazon. Sigh (why only Macs?).

No such thing as organic bamboo fabric? This reminds me to further investigate bamboo textiles.

gucci bamboo heelsDid you like the Gucci bags with bamboo handles featured in the September version of this post? Now you can get bamboo heels to match. At A$650 a pair, much less expensive than the bag. Fashion Foie Gras described them as ” rather conservative and definitely have a party going on there from the back.”

The ever-increasing demand for PVC plastic kites is sounding a death knell for the craft of handmade kites in Hyderabad, India, according to the The Hindu.

bamboo2,500 bamboo strips dating from 305 BC, unearthed from an illegal tomb excavation in China, were donated to, and restored by, the Tsinghua University in Beijing. 21 of the strips are an elaborate multiplication matrix.

bambooMore innovative architecture from Designboom: bamboo sleeping units for an orphanage near the Thai-Burmese border. For more images and details, click on the image.

Still more from Designboom: Tranquillity in the heart of a metropolis. No, it’s not made of bamboo, rather, bamboo provides shade and shadow-play in an otherwise linear building. yutaka-kawahara-kaikouin-nenbutsudo-temple-designboom-44

More tranquillity (secular). (And more Designboom) What particular architectural elements achieve serenity for this cafe in Vietnam? Water? Bamboo? The curves? bamboo

Clamps for bamboo – Irwin Quick-Grip Clamp Review

When I started working with bamboo, rather than spend money on clamps I wasn’t sure about, I used some old C-clamps that happened to be here. They were heavy, a bit stiff, and very clumsy. Many times I found I needed three hands to hold the bamboo in place and secure the clamp. And still it slipped, or worked loose after a few saw strokes.

Then I was gifted an Irwin Quick-Grip Clamp (Thanks, Jem). I very quickly purchased a second one. Two is ideal for holding bamboo while sawing or drilling. The bamboo (I use, at least!) is never straight, or flat, or any of the nice even, symmetrical things milled timber can be. Using two clamps will secure the culm firmly without it pivoting on a high point.

Swivel jaw

The slightly soft swivel jaw of the clamp really comes in to its own when two clamps are used together on a round piece of bamboo. It’s almost impossible to get a firm grip on bamboo with just one clamp. Using two clamps together, each clamp will hold the bamboo at slightly opposing angles.

Single-handed operation

Fixing or releasing the clamp only needs one hand. The clamp fixes with a ratchet-type action by squeezing the larger handle. The smaller upper handle triggers an instant release. Simple. The clamps can also be used as spreaders, although I haven’t tried that yet.

At first blush, the clamps look light and a bit flimsy. Lightweight they are, but not flimsy. They are made out of some kind resin and feel quite strong in action. Unsurprisingly, all the reviews on Amazon are positive.

My verdict: Love ’em. Great for working bamboo.

Bamboo on the Internet for November – my picks

bamboo

Bali mansion

  • For bamboo buildings on a grand scale, Bali is already famous for the Green School.  Near the Green School is Green Village. The photo here is one example of the hand-constructed homes built of bamboo with outstanding attention to detail. Follow the link for some breathtaking photos on the Green Village website.
  • Jamaica is looking to resuscitate the bamboo industry. With approximately 106,000 acres of bamboo, Jamaica is one of 38 countries with commercially viable stocks of bamboo that are members of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). The INBAR website is a good source of information for anyone with more than a passing interest in bamboo.
  • If you find yourself in Jamaica, you might enjoy a river trip on a bamboo raft.
  • bamboo bridge

    A bridge for the people – not their elected representatives

    The residents of remote village in Bihar, India, have built their own makeshift bamboo bridge after waiting since 1985 for the government to build a concrete bridge for them. Elected members are barred from using the bridge.

  • Most bamboo flowers and seeds rarely. In the south of Burma, the unusual event is being blamed for expected food shortages. Villagers say that when bamboo flowers and produces seed it attracts swarms of rats. The sudden proliferation of food causes the rats to multiply rapidly. When the bamboo seeds are depleted, the rats then consume the villagers’ rice crops.
  • bamboo broom

    Bamboo broom

    As autumn approaches in the northern hemisphere, Weather Girl laments the ubiquitous leaf blower and expounds the virtues of the humble bamboo rake, and ex-pat Chris has visions of Harry Potter when he uses his bamboo broom in Tokyo.

  • Bamboo toothbrushes: environmentally friendly oral hygiene wrapped in feel-good social entrepreneurship – except for the nylon bristles. What I’d like is bamboo toothbrush with natural bristles.
  • Bamboo coffins: A local NGO in Mizoram, India, which helps in coordinating social functions and conducting funerals for poor families, have been providing free bamboo coffins to those who cannot afford the wooden ones.

Corrugated bamboo roofing

The ubiquity, in the tropics at least, of corrugated iron roofing and rainwater tanks comes with concerns for many of us who live with such arrangements. What, exactly, is all that lovely rainwater washing off your zinc roofing and depositing in your rainwater tank?

Tin roofs

Aside from the obvious fallout from air pollution and bird shit, a study in Germany found that dissolution of the roof systems’ metal components is one the main sources of run-off pollution. Similarly, other studies have suggested that the acidic nature of  rainwater may cause chemical compounds from the roof to leach into the harvested rainwater. Worse still, yet other studies have showed that older roofs leach more metals, suggesting that the age of the roof can negatively impact the quality of harvested rainwater.

A roofing product under development in Columbia may well address these issues. Corrugated bamboo roofing sheets are essentially laminated and resin-soaked, woven bamboo mats pressed between two corrugated pressing plates. The sheets are strong, durable, and are very resistant to insect attack.

roofing

The Guadua Bamboo website describes the  results of a study that compares the mechanical properties and performance differences between bamboo roofing and three other common roofing materials in the tropics. 

Those folk who live in the tropics know well the noise of a tropical downpour on a tin roof: it can be thunderous. One stand-out for me is that bamboo roofing is significantly quieter than our omnipresent corrugated iron roofing.

The roofing is produced from a sustainable and renewable resource, creates local employment, is easy to work with, is cooler in the sun than plastic or metal, looks great …. What’s not to like?

Let’s hope it becomes available in, at least, other parts of the tropics around the world.