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Bamboo Building

"I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security.  Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad.  Otherwise what is there to defend?" - Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

Bamboo is an abundant and adaptable material that can be incorporated into our building methods in a variety of ways. 

bambu construction

Its strength and flexibility make it an ideal structural material.  Bamboo “has greater tensile strength (or resistance to being pulled apart) than steel, and it withstands compression better than concrete. Both qualities are essential to keeping the plant,” which grows to nearly 30 meters and is about as wide in diameter at the base as the very top, “from falling over. It needs the compression strength to hold up its own weight and tensile strength to bend in the wind without breaking.1

bamboo building nicaragua

Bamboo is sturdy and durable, yet light and flexible enough to be used as a seismic-resistant building material.  “Bamboo's strength is in its ability to bend.2

For example, in April 1991, a 7.5 earthquake in Limón, Costa Rica, destroyed homes built with concrete and rebar, but all 20 of the more-flexible bamboo houses at the earthquake’s epicenter remained standing.3  And, when three typhoons swept into the Cook Islands in 2005, one producing winds of 173 mph, they devoured everything in their path — everything except a group of bamboo houses on the beach. 4 5

Bamboo is most often used as an alternative to timber, though, with its underground rhizome root system that continually regenerates when the stalks are cut, it is technically a type of quick-growing grass.

bamboo building nicaragua

This rapid renewal, along with its ability to produce 35 % more oxygen from carbon dioxide than trees; sequester up to 70% more carbon per year than a hardwood forest; grow in degraded soils with no added fertilizers, pesticides, or irrigation; and, effectively bind soil to prevent erosion, secures its place among sustainable materials. 

bamboo building nicaragua

Like other natural building materials, the benefits of bamboo have been known for centuries, and bamboo bridges and structures dating back hundreds of years still stand today.  However, new techniques have been developed that allow using bamboo in increasingly complex and demanding structures.

Bamboo’s value continues to be recognized, and in 2004, the International Code Council (ICC) declared that certified structural bamboo poles comply with the standards of the International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC), and Uniform Building Code (UBC). 5  The result of this certification is that those architectural designs that have historically been built using wood can now be built “to code” using structural bamboo instead.

As the world goes green, bamboo's essential qualities have us poised for a bamboo revolution.


1 and 2 News Week,

3 and 4 Pacific Standard Magazine,

5 ICC Evaluation Service,