Photo: Istock
Photo: Istock

Bamboo as base for energy-efficient buildings

The government has been promoting the use of bamboo in the building sector for ensuring a sustainable development

NEW DELHI : In a significant breakthrough, scientists have mapped the way heat flows across a bamboo structure, which could guide the development of more energy-efficient and fire-resistant buildings made from natural materials in future.

“People worry about fire safety of bamboo buildings. Our aim was to understand its thermal properties to help design such buildings better," said Darshil Shah, the researcher from the University of Cambridge who led the study. The findings were published in the recent edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Scientific Reports.

Researchers used advanced scanning thermal microscopy and scanned cross-sections of bamboo tissues and studied the intricate fibre structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls. While the thicker walls give it strength and has peaks of thermal conductivity; the thermal conductivity in thinner cell walls is low, showed the study.

“We saw that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire, the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately," said Shah.

The findings are crucial, as they show how the bamboo building components are likely to behave when exposed to fire, so that measures can be incorporated to make bamboo buildings safer.

The building sector currently accounts for 40% of all carbon emissions, mostly due to the production of the materials used in construction- steel and concrete, and the energy used in heating and cooling the finished buildings.

However, with rapid rate of urbanization, the traditional building approach could be rendered unsustainable, taking attention towards some renewable substitutes. The strongest plant material- Bamboo can not only reduce emissions and help mitigate the human impact of climate change, but also become a renewable substitute for timber, which can then be diverted away from being burnt as fuel.

The government too, has been promoting the use of bamboo in the building sector for ensuring a sustainable development. Cross-laminated bamboo is already being used widely as flooring materials in various new buildings, especially in hilly states.

But, since it is inflammable and there is a risk of fire, its wide-use applications are limited. The engineering design of bamboo structure has also not yet been fully addressed to solve the problem.