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Last edited 25 Jan 2019
Bamboo can be engineered to form products with improved and/or standardised mechanical, physical and aesthetic properties. As in the case for other lignocellulosic materials such as wood, bamboo poles (culms) with variable diameters, lengths and shapes can be transformed into straight edged engineered products with predictable properties for construction applications.
Engineered bamboo products (EBPs) and engineered wood products (EWPs) possess an intrinsic carbon storage capacity, as well as the potential for a lower embodied energy and lower carbon emissions from manufacturing than conventional construction products such as concrete or steel.
For example, the carbon footprint of concrete and stainless steel (304) is two to ten times higher than that of bamboo plywood (a laminated EBP) or an indoor use plywood according to IDEMAT database (2016) .
The embodied energy for producing one kilogramme (kg) of stainless steel is almost four times higher than that of producing one kilogramme of plywood  or bamboo plywood; 56.70 MJ/kg for the former and 15 MJ/kg and 15.5 for the laminated EBP .
Figure 1 illustrates EBP's capability for storing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than the raw and non-processed bamboo culms. There is more CO2 storage equivalent in the bamboo plantation due to the higher use of material per dry weight (d.w.) for the manufacture of EBPs.
In addition to bamboo’s remarkable environmental properties and high yield of carbon storing biomass when transformed into durable EBPs, recent research at the University of Bath (UK) has demonstrated potential as a complementary material to wood (rather than a substitute) in structural applications .
Cross laminated Guadua-bamboo (G-XLam) panels (Figure 2) developed and tested at the university with the support of British firm Amphibia BASE showed a two-fold increase in density and MOE when compared to analogous cross laminated (CLT) panels (M1 BSP crossplan by Mayr-Melnhof Holz) (Table 1).
That is, the in-plane compression moduli of elasticity of these CLT panels in the main direction (Epc,0) and transverse direction (Epc,90) were about half of that of G-XLam3 and G-XLam5 panels (three and five layers); e.g. Epc,0 was 7.57GPa and 14.83 GPa for CLT3 and G-XLam3 panels.
Figure 2 G-XLam bamboo-Guadua panels for stiffness driven applications
The thickness of G-XLam3 and G-XLam5 panels is almost a fifth of CLT3 and CLT5 panels (e.g. thicknesses of CLT5 and G-XLam5 were 134mm and 27.5mm, respectively). This is a desirable feature in stiffness driven design but, G-XLam panels possess a high slenderness ratio, which presents a structural challenge in overcoming buckling.
Nevertheless, potential engineering applications for G-XLam panels include sandwich panels and stressed skin structures (e.g. monocoques, where thin but very stiff layers are separated by a core or internal structure that increases the second moment of area and reduces buckling.
EBPs such as these G-XLam panels present a new approach to the use of bamboo in structural applications, where bamboo is not seen as substitute, but a complementary material that in combination with wood and/or lightweight cores can provide the required stiffness with reduced cross-sections.
Further testing, research and understanding of the mechanical behaviour of EBPs is required, together with the optimisation of current manufacturing processes and their incorporation within timber standards for structural design.
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 External references
 H. F. Archila, D. Brandon, M. P. Ansell, P. Walker, and G. A. Ormondroyd, “Evaluation of the mechanical properties of cross laminated bamboo panels by digital image correlation and finite element modelling .,” in WCTE 2014, World Conference on Timber Engineering, 2014, p. 43.
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