Paper Presentation

Contemporary Bamboo Architecture in India and its Acceptability and Skill development

  • Event Name: 10th World Bamboo Congress 2015
  • Date: 19-Sep-2015
  • Organizer: World Bamboo Organization

Ar. Neelam Manjunath , Propritrix, Manasaram Architects, Bangalore, India,; Managing Trustee, Center for Green Building Materials and Technology, Bangalore, India,


ndia is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world and has vast traditional knowledge of bamboo based communities with the best bamboo artisans in the world. Use of Bamboo for buildings is part of age old tradition in India. Because of the distribution of various climatic zones in India, the species of bamboo found in each state are quite different. Hence, India has various bamboo building typologies across the country depending on the climatic zone and the species found in the particular state.

This paper will chart the various traditional typologies of bamboo buildings in India and their evolution through time to the present, influenced by the new interest, research and development in the material globally. The paper will also discuss the issues that has been hindering the acceptability of the material as a preferred material for modern architecture , as also our strengths that will enable us to emerge as a major contributor to the bamboo building sector in the future. The paper will address the above in the following manner:

  1. Traditional Bamboo Architecture in India - literature survey--- Problems and Issues
  2. Contemporary Bamboo Architecture in India
  3. Acceptability of contemporary bamboo architecture--Identifying major issues
  4. Systemic solution as the key—The Road ahead


With the Global warming issues raging the globe and the building industry a major contributor, scientists across the globe are looking towards low energy, resource efficient building materials and technologies for solving the problem of keeping the pace of development without further raising the carbon levels.

Also, a critical aspect of sustainable buildings is its ability to perform under both service conditions and extreme events. Safety in the built environment is a fundamental right (United Nations 1948; United Nations 1994). Recent natural catastrophes in the last two decades have resulted in unacceptably high casualty tolls. In reviewing the statistics, one realizes a major difference in casualties in developed and less developed regions. The 2010 Chilean earthquake, the fifth largest recorded since 1900, resulted in approx 550 casualties only primarily due to the adoption of advanced building codes with seismic technology.

Tropical and sub tropical regions have the largest housing and infrastructure deficit and are also the sites of major natural disasters .It is in view of these facts, we start considering bamboo as a viable, sustainable and engineered alternative to present practices in many areas of the world. Recognition of bamboo as a sustainable construction material is growing, with research and construction not only in the developing countries but across the globe.

Majority of knowledge of bamboo construction is based on cultural traditions and India has a very rich and diverse tradition of bamboo buildings with various indigenous technologies. To develop bamboo as a sustainable building material, in both engineering and cultural senses, one must evaluate traditional building techniques in terms of engineering standards and develop equivalent methods of design and performance assessment by resolving the issues.

India is still catching up with the world in adopting the newly developed bamboo building construction technologies for mainstream buildings. Several research institutes are working on bamboo building systems, but the lab to land transfer is very slow. Housing shortage due to the rising unaffordability makes it logical to consider alternative technologies more seriously for their application. But the question is: how far do these alternative materials and technologies match up with the conventional ones? Why do people still hesitate to build a bamboo house for themselves?

This paper tries to find these answers and connect the dots, in order to explore the reasons for large-scale non acceptance, of a technology proven for its worthiness, with all its attributes and unique qualities, certified by experts for its appropriateness and usefulness in its multiple applications in the building industry in India, where it is hardly acknowledged as an alternative for the building industry.

Traditional Bamboo Architecture in India - Literature Survey

Bamboo community lives close to the forest and are traditionally dependent on bamboo for their livelihood. Due to the climatic diversity across the country, the building materials and species of bamboo found in different climatic zone are quite diverse. Hence, the traditional building systems and typologies developed over several centuries in response to the local climate and available building materials are also quite diverse.

North Eastern states—Bamboo is available in abundance in these states. Since accessibility is still a big problem here, people build with local materials to the maximum extent. Riang houses, Mizo houses and Adi Gallong houses use bamboo as the primary material for construction. Sometimes even the thatch is made of bamboo leaves. These are typical hill houses constructed on bamboo stilts and have woven bamboo mats for walls. Flooring is made of splits or flattened bamboo. The houses in Assam and some other states are built sometimes with a plinth base with Wattle and daub walling in combination with wooden poles. Bamboo is extensively used for fencing and large temporary structures for festivals and functions.

The river planes, in the states of Bihar, Bengal and Orrisa house built with bamboo only are found in rural and tribal areas. Walls are made of mats of splits or flattened bamboo, with mud flooring on a plinth. In these bamboo was also used as reinforment in lime surki flat slabs. There are several examples of houses over 70-80 years old still in working conditions (Figure ).

In Central India a traditional dwelling of bamboo worker has a walls are made of thick bamboo matt covered with mud plaster, thick bamboos are used for vertical support. The attic floor is made of bamboo mating, covered with mud plaster. The roof consists of wooden trusses, rafters and purlins of bamboo and covering of country tile or thatch. The mud is used for plastering; flooring is done by rammed earth, covered with cow dung. The timber doors and window frames with bamboo shutters, bamboo jail are used for lighting and ventilation (Figure ).

In the desert regions, bamboo is used as reinforcement in walls, boundary walls and also in main roof structures (Figure ).

In south India bamboo was used for walls in a wattle and daub system with composite mud plastering and roof structure in sloped roofs in rural areas. In urban areas, bamboo was used majorly in roofing structure for both sloped and flat lime surki roofs (Figure ).

In the coastal belt, bamboo is used for walling and roofing structure as also for fencing mostly by the fishermen. The walls are made of woven mats from Bamboo. Famous Kerala house boats use bamboo for their complete superstructure (Figure )

Basic traditional construction systems of main building components:

Foundation and structure: Two types of foundations:

  • Building on Stilts: Beam and Post system with bamboo in combination with local wood. In this case the flooring is made from bamboo in various ways.
  • Local stone foundation with mud base with column and beam system with bamboo in combination with local wood.  These houses have mud flooring.

Wall: Two major types:

  • Ekra system- Walls made from woven bamboo mats with either strips or flattened bamboo. They are either left exposed or plastered with mud or lime depending on the climate conditions. If thermal mass is required, plastering is done. But if ventilation and lighting is required, the wall is left exposed.
  • The Assam system. Walls with wattle and daub method with widely spaced frame made of bamboo splits covered with mat, jute or mesh plastered with mud or lime mortar.

Roof: Roofs were made sloped or flat depending on rainfall in the area.

  • Sloped roof- Almost the whole structure is made from bamboo in combination with local wood. Roofing material generally used is thatch, terracotta tiles and more recently tin or sheets.
  • Flat roofs- Two methods were used. Some places bamboo was used for the understructure in combination with wood with lime surki slab on top. In the second system, bamboo was used as reinforcement in the lime surki slab.

Doors and windows: They are generally made of bamboo in combination with wood, or some places with only bamboo depending on economical and climatic considerations.

Problems and Issues with traditional bamboo houses

  1. Most of the present dwellers of bamboo houses belong to the socially and economically weaker sections in the society. Probably due to their poor economic condition. They opt for low cost bamboo houses and hence are of low quality. Thus economic conditions of the dwellers must be improved to construct quality bamboo houses.
  2. Demand for bamboo for the construction sector is more than the total supply of bamboo. The price of bamboo has gone up also because of high demand from pulp and paper industry, which forces people to go for cheaper materials like Casuarina poles. Forests and homesteads, two important sources of supply of bamboos, divert the resources to those sectors which offer better price. Quality bamboos, at low cost must be made available to people who wish to construct bamboo houses.
  3. Most of the bamboo community is aware of the construction technology and traditional bamboo preservation techniques. If financial help is provided they can build reasonably safe buildings for themselves with little training on latest technology interventions...
  4. Bamboo may be grown in wastelands and mid and lowland areas and homesteads should be encouraged.  All this can be included in the plantation programs of the Forest Departments in rural and tribal areas.
  5. Rationing of bamboos in areas where its supply is less or price is more can be thought of. More bamboo depots may be established by the Forest Departments in different parts of the States so that the dwellers can buy bamboo easily.
  6. The state governments should include bamboo as a construction material in their housing scheme thereby upgrading the status of bamboo houses to ‘pucca’ house. Economical   technology for preservative treatment of bamboo should be popularized for construction. Some model bamboo houses suitable for local conditions and weather can be constructed to popularize the same among the people.

Contemporary Bamboo Architecture in India

Seeing the global trends, some institutes have engaged in research in the field of material science, treatment methods, building components, construction systems and products with bamboo for over few decades. The major institutes are:

IPIRTI, Indian Plywood Industrial Research and Training Institute, Bangalore- In collaboration with TRADA and BMTPC, they have developed a modified walling system with Bamboocrete - an upgradation of Wattle and daub system and also a construction system for two storey bamboo structure. IPIRTI has also developed some treatment methods for bamboo to be used in construction. It has also developed various types of bamboo ply, boards, and flooring and corrugated roofing sheets from woven bamboo.  Some of these technologies have been transferred to industries and are under manufacture.

IWST, Indian Wood Science Institute, Bangalore- IWST has developed treatment method for bamboo and developed a bamboo-wood –plastic composite which can be used in several building applications. CGBMT with Manasaram Architects have worked on pre-fabricated bamboocrete wall panels, prefab houses, and bamboo construction systems with bamboo reinforced concrete roof, bamboo fiber reinforced concrete, freeform bamboo roofs, tensegrity and synergetic structures with bamboo, compressed blocks with bamboo and paper waste with mud etc.  Also they have put most of the technologies developed by other organizations as well from lab to land in innovative and aesthetical manner in their live projects thereby creating a string of examples and database for other architects to follow.

CIBART with KONBAC has been working in the furniture sector and has set up some units. They are also developing a construction system with small diameter bamboos. IIT, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi has done some work on bamboo buildings. Inspirations, an architecture firm has been using bamboo in some of their buildings including their own office building for quite some time. Sangaru objects pvt ltd has been developing very high end furniture and products from bamboo thereby trying to elevate the status of bamboo as a material in the field of product design. NID, National Institute of Design has been working with this material for furniture and product design for living spaces etc Wondergrass initiatives, Nagpur is involved in developing standardized prefab bamboo panels for walling and has also done some construction projects.

Several young architects are trying to work with the material, but most of these projects do not see the light of the day and remain on paper due to various factors. ( we will discuss them in the next section). Due to its sustainable properties, it is a favourite material used in design competitions to get an edge. It is also being used for eco-tourism projects, but most of them are built as temporary structures. Bamboo House, New Delhi, by Pradeep Sachdeva, Bamboo Dormitory by Architecture BRIO, Cherai Beach Resort- Kochi.

Acceptability of Bamboo architecture-- Identifying major issues

Could the hesitation be because of lack of awareness or is it due to a simple resistance to adopting an alternative technology? Or does it have a deeper explanation? Why has it become so easy for conventional housing techniques and materials, to completely wipe out the richness of the deep rooted traditional architecture using mud and bamboo construction, the construction skills which has been perfected over centuries? Why are the conventional houses selling, despite being unaffordable and inhabitable? Are the traditional construction skills vanishing? At this rate a wonder material like bamboo is likely to end up in laboratories and never be able to get transferred on to the land. There is hence a clear need to explore the reasons for non-acceptance of bamboo dwellings.

A. Material Limitations: Bamboo is a natural material and hence has certain limitations. Research energies, the world over have been focusing on countering these limitations.

  1. Measures need to be taken to treat bamboo technically up to such a level of fineness, that it gets qualified as a structurally safe and durable material for construction, enough to attract bankers financiers and other funding agencies, rendering it as an appropriate material for mass housing.
  2. Fire Rating: Susceptibility to fire is another limiting factor in the use of whole bamboo culms in buildings. Engineered bamboo is a solution to this problem, but it is unaffordable to the majority of clients. Hence fire rating of round bamboo and fire retarding treatment material and methodologies need to be developed for it to be used in major large scale projects.
  3. Connection and Joining Systems: Owing to round shape of bamboo, jointing is very difficult and cumbersome. The reduction of diameter along the length is another limiting factor. Various types of engineered and tested jointing systems with appropriate materials need to be developed for effective structured load distribution and transfer. Combined studies covering aspects, mechanical behaviour and suitability of connections, for implementation purposes are rarer .Researchers   must focus to include connection types with complete structural systems.
  4. Conical form of bamboo: Tapering along the Culm, an approximately hollow circular transverse section, which reduces its weight, a functionally gradient rigidity of its cross- section to deflection in the radial direction, bamboo is a unique and difficult material to design with. Through the application of the Digital Image Analysis (IA) appropriate equations have been developed to present the fibre distribution across the thickness of the cross-section which can help the designer to calculate the modulus of elasticity of bamboo with some degree of precision. It is a reliable method for establishing the meso-structure of bamboo.
  5. While its utility as whole bamboo construction cannot be ignored for specific building typologies, for it to penetrate the housing market it will require composite construction techniques and an intensive use of prefabricated bamboo components in order to be able to substitute the energy guzzling construction materials which make the dwelling units unsustainable and unaffordable. Many of the traditional construction techniques will have to be either improved or substituted for the purposes of mass housing with mass usage of engineered bamboo and; breakthroughs in its use will have to be examined more closely especially for multi-storied construction. The direction of the study shall therefore hitherto shift to processed bamboo construction methods with bamboo.
  6. Assessing Bamboo Splitting Behavior:  A dominant failure mode of bamboo is longitudinal splitting. Such failures are associated with bamboo carrying flexure, compression or tension loads in bolted connections. It is a technical and practical necessity and needs to be fully addressed. We need to get simple design equations for fundamental properties such as compression, tension, shear and splitting capacities which can be used to design complex structures with bamboo with the same confidence as for all other engineering materials (concrete, steel, timber, masonry, etc.).
  7. Hygroscopic nature of bamboo: The main shortcoming for bamboo to be used as re-inforcement or as a permanent shutter form with concrete is its water absorption capacity. The dimensional variation of  the transverse sections  of untreated bamboo, due to water can  reach up to 6% after 7 days of immersion in water and can lead to micro and macro cracks in cured concrete .The main factors that affect this bonding are; adhesive properties of the cement matrix, the compression friction forces appearing on the surface of the reinforcement bar due to shrinkage of the concrete and the shear resistance of concrete due to surface form and roughness of the reinforcement bar. The swelling and shrinkage of bamboo in concrete creates a serious limitation in the use of bamboo as a substitute for steel. To improve the bond between bamboo segments and concrete, an effective water-repellent treatment is necessary.
  8. Economical Spans for Mass Application: For a modest Dwelling Unit, an economical span of 10-12 feet is considered fairly appropriate and is found to be economical even if steel reinforcement were to be used. Large spans are not possible in bamboo as it is difficult to get splints of uniform cross-sectional area as reinforcement, for very long lengths owing to its tapering structure.
  9. Building industry in India is still an unorganized sector and hence even conventional buildings are very poorly implemented. Once these problems are countered, bamboo will become highly appropriate building material for tropical climate. For seismic regions it is reputed to cause the least damage to life and property. Due to its light weight, foundation costs can be saved. Bamboo Reinforced Concrete can be, designed in much the same way as Steel reinforced concrete with a few extra precautions. This and many other such findings can make bamboo frog leap into the mainstream market and offer great economic and environmental advantage.

B. Academics, Research and Development issues:

  1. Integration in Academic curriculum: Bamboo is not included as a mainstream material for building construction in the curriculum of architecture, civil and interior design disciplines. Hence most of the designers remain unaware of this wonderful sustainable material. Awareness needs to be built through workshops, seminars and lectures etc by experts in the universities and institutes. The students need to be exposed to innovation and global best practices in the field. All the previous research and findings must seep into the class rooms immediately, through dissemination by academicians by incorporating bamboo in their syllabus.
  2. Architectural Solutions substituting key building components with bamboo: Most of the bamboo buildings in India today have been done by govt agencies as part of some testing and research with minimum attention to aesthetics and finish. These in reality never have been able to attract the public for their own usage. Construction of architectural aesthetically designed live models, for active promotions and display, to attract those who are willing to experiment with construction of bamboo houses,  has to be  taken up on to make this material desirable. Building components, partially replaced with bamboo shall be used to arrive at permutations and combinations, for creating a variety of architectural designs, which would also provide choices for selecting the one that would best suit the budget. Capacity building measures must precede the actual construction boom for bamboo buildings in order to provide skilled manpower for high quality construction practices.
  3. Non availability of data and Research results in usable format: Research, innovations in alternative materials and building technologies are unable to see the light of day. There could be many reasons why these experiments, though successfully conducted in laboratories, never reach the field for application. One major reason for its non popularity can be attributed to the cumbersome and elaborate precautions that have to be taken for design and during construction of the structural elements. This makes them non user-friendly. Most of the time they are not practicable, feasible, efficient and   time, cost and energy efficient. There has to be an equally robust implementing strategy through timely precipitation and dissemination of the research data in usable format and awareness building for a widespread market penetration. We need  to simplify its treatment procedures and eliminate operational problems in making bamboo a mainstream building material.  
  4. Need for Standards and testing methods: In the context of building construction, conventional construction materials such as steel and reinforced concrete were once unconventional and unproven materials and acceptance was achieved through decades of testing, analysis, and experience which evolved into standardized practices. Even today, the standardization of these materials continues to be refined through the work of universities, laboratories and professional organizations.
  5. Increasing focus is now being placed on the standardization of sustainable building materials like bamboo. Standardization of bamboo as a construction materials and practices will serve both technical and social purposes. Data from such comparable tests can be compiled to obtain a more reliable understanding of a material’s properties based on a statistical analysis which can lead to refinement of and confidence in design values, leading to broader acceptance of the material in the design community. Such acceptance, coupled with advocacy, can lead to broader social acceptance of previously marginalized vernacular construction material and methods like bamboo.
  6. Field Testing: An important consideration in the development of standard test methods should be  that they can be reliably conducted in a field setting with little equipment or specialized machining . This allows material properties to be assessed by non-technical personnel.  Also , the field test must produce a useful material metric that can (1) directly determine a design value; (2) be correlated to values obtained in a laboratory test; or (3) be accurately used to compare  different batches of material. Standardization of bamboo test methods is critical if the material is to gain greater engineering acceptance. Methods that capture fundamental material properties permit comparison of the behavior and performance of different bamboo species, geometry, and weathering and treatment methods. Standardized test methods used in well-defined experimental studies also permit the isolation of factors that affect material performance and behavior. This process represents the path to rational and universal design methods for bamboo. Also testing of bamboo is quite difficult due to a) many varieties of bamboo b) Within the same variety itself again there are many variations. So for general usage economical testing methods could be developed even if they are not as accurate. (Accuracy vs. Afford- ability)

C. The Legal, Administrative and Financial Machinery for Implementation:

Need for Policy frameworks: Government Departments of Town Planning for a re-look at the housing strategies, the necessity for evolving policy frameworks, in order to incorporate alternative materials for building construction. A large potential segment of buildings are considered as being valueless due to usage of materials like bamboo. This is due to the definition of a “pucca house”, as per the census, the criteria listed for housing finance by funding agencies, to the National policies, to the Building Byelaws, to the Development Control Rules and finally to the psyche of the inhabitants for whom a house can only mean a pucca house which is out of steel, cement, bricks, and concrete, glass and timber, or an RCC framed Structure and RCC slab for a roof.

  1. Redefining a Pucca House -It is immediately required to correct the census definition of a pucca house, for the inclusion of alternative building s ,  to make it easy for such house owners to treat it as an asset throughout its life span. This will also change the statistics of housing stock and make it more realistic.
  2. Inclusion in SSR and National Building Code – Bamboo needs to be included in the Standard Schedule of Rates and National Building Code published by the government for all civil and infrastructure works in the country. Formulation of a set of standards for the use of bamboo, along with guidelines and regulatory measures, integrated into the National building Code  along with special bye laws for bamboo growing regions can be formulated. This will make it convenient for architects and civil engineers to include bamboo in material specifications of their projects without risking the clients financing options.
  3. Definition of Bamboo as Tree: This has created numerous hurdles for material availability of bamboo and its exorbitant costs. In the last 10 years there seems to be some efforts being made, but they have not borne fruit so far. Bamboo needs to be liberated from this problem at the earliest throughout India to ensure consistent supply of bamboo for all industries.
  4. Guidelines for Special Area Policies: A national level (special area) strategy can  be proposed to streamline the financial/ administrative /local level machinery  so that special bye laws are framed for dwelling units using bamboo for their construction. These could extend over seismic zones which may have bamboo readily available   Special relaxations in criteria for housing finance for bamboo houses meant for the rural and urban poor to increased access to loans, cross subsidy and property insurance etc could be a great booster.  Special provision can be made for smooth and fast clearance of applications for buildings with alternate materials like bamboo, and if possible even provide an incentive package.
  5. Finance for bamboo buildings: Techno- financial environment has to be created to encourage the use of bamboo for construction purposes, and attempts have to be made to elevate a bamboo building to the status of a capital asset having an appreciating property value.  A parallel research on financial management is required to evolve soft criteria for offering cheap loans, subsidies and formulating social security measures to extend over the right to modest housing and humane living environment for the poor under the provisions of Article 43 which currently focuses only on just and humane environment for work. Insurance facility against fire, theft, death along with medical insurance to promise financial security will have to be dovetailed to the package of benefits and privileges legitimately acquired by a citizen. Funding is now being made available for constructional use, by the Ministry of Rural Development –National Waste- land Development Board, which has been identified as the most efficient way of conserving soil. Potential of Bamboo needs to be harnessed.
  6. Dilution of Standards: The contribution of alternative materials in cost reduction may not be large; it does not mean that they must be ignored. However small the saving may be, it is sufficient reason to prevent dilution of standards of a “Pucca” house or building, which is a major hurdle in achieving the national target of having slum free cities or total eradication of homeless population. Often the size of the house, number of rooms, provision of basic amenities and facilities are compromised, creating a favorable situation for catalysts to thrive for creation of slums rather than their eradication. Cost Cutting should not mean Size, Safety and Quality Compromises and this can be achieved with bamboo buildings. Bamboo structural elements and inner walls in the superstructure alone can bring down the costs up to 13.8% which saves enough to prevent dilution of standards in a conventional house. On closer analysis of the National Policies it is clear that what gets promised is what is “Possible to be built in a small budget while keeping the technology constant” and certainly not what is “desirable” or “acceptable” in terms of size and number of rooms. A unilateral decision on compromise of standards is being made uniformly across the country, thereby reducing the area, size of rooms, and number of rooms. Any constraints in exploring possibilities about material, design, technology or creative financial options will affect affordability
  7. Coordination among Multiple Agencies- While the Policies may have an ambitious and well intended package in place for alternative building materials it require fine coordination among multiple agencies. Historically, multiplicity of functions and overlapping of jurisdictions have been the cause for the failure of policies, schemes and programs.
  8. Design Guidelines for Bamboo Buildings:
  • Alternative Materials to be Used Based on Merit- It has to be noted that all alternative materials unconventional materials do not result in a kutcha house. In fact if the damage and destruction caused due to failure of structural design, were to be included in the cost benefit analysis, most unconventional material would qualify as being pucca in the sense of being safer if not durable.
  • Habitability is Not a Function of Durability- A Pucca house despite being durable, safe and secure can still be inhabitable by virtue of its size, climate non responsiveness, persons to room ratio.
  • Hidden Costs Add to Non-Affordability of Pucca House -A pucca house can be durable, safe secure, habitable and still be unaffordable on account of other hidden costs, including travel and other betterment, processing and user charges, taxes etc.
  • Hidden Costs Add to Non-Affordability of Kuccha House -A so called Kutcha (temporary) house (using parallel technology) can also be durable, safe secure, habitable and still be unaffordable on account of its inherent capital cost, other hidden costs, including travel and other betterment, processing and user charges, taxes etc.
  • Adequacy cannot be sacrificed in the Name of Affordability -Affordability cannot be equated to size of the house infinitely as being inversely proportional to it, but must stop at a point when it starts to get inhabitable or inadequate. Affordability has to be delinked from minimum size and number of rooms required by a given household. Habitat not Housing is what needs to be planned for. Each being valueless, without the other.

D. Social issues

  1. Affordability vs. Priorities- Affordability is perhaps the prime reason for people to opt for a more permanent solution. At the same time a substandard house can be very demanding in terms of time, energy and money for its maintenance. Ever increasing expensive lifestyles, new emergent priorities, and erratic non-budgeted expenditure patterns, could lead to a skewed result, making affordability a highly sensitive variable rather than a constant indicator. Bamboo being one of the cheaper materials plays an important role in providing an economic alternative of course in combination with other materials. This is especially true for urban areas close to bamboo growing regions.

  1. Substituting Bricks, Cement, Steel and Timber Alone can Account for a Cost Reduction of up to 40%: By substituting bricks, cement, steel and timber with bamboo even partially for constructing walls, floors, roofs etc.  Buildings can be designed for a longer life, improved quality, and low maintenance. Bamboo in combination with other alternative materials for these components alone can give a cost reduction of up to 40%.
  2. Social acceptability is another issue which can be dealt with through nontraditional processed bamboo construction and architectural design. This is required in response to the strong reactions from experts indicating that whole bamboo has failed to live up to the social urbane image.
  3. Cost Reduction.
  4. Separate Standards to be Evolved- Some of the important housing terminologies  needs to be redefined, so that the benefits of all the research reaches the urban poor  living close to bamboo growing regions. Translating them into a series of standard thumb rules will make it easy for construction in rural areas thereby eliminating the involvement of engineers, contractors and architects, further contributing to cost reduction.
  5. Execution Issues:
  • Material availability: Availability of good quality and quantity bamboo of suitable species for building sector is a major issue hindering the usage of this material. If treated and standardized graded bamboo is made available readily, use of bamboo in building sector will increase manifold within no time.  Bamboo depots need to be set up by government and private agencies in across the country to make the material available to clients, architects, designers and engineers.

  • Skill development: Capacity building measures at every level of design, supervision and execution, and on war footing basis on large scale must precede the actual construction boom in order to cater to the demands of bamboo building sector. The training institutes can provide parallel hands-on education, and with the active involvement of voluntary agencies, NGOs, grass-root level workers, and elected representatives, sanitation engineers along with self help groups, all shall have to work in coordination to create a skilled workforce for the bamboo building sector. They could be implemented in smaller action plans either location specific or activity specific. Training schedules and content could be designed accordingly

  • Pre fabrication- Building components, partially replaced with bamboo if made available to create permutations and combinations, for creating a variety of architectural designs, which can also provide choices for selecting the one that would best suit the budget. This will also enhance the speed of construction on site and make it economical. Engineered bamboo provides more options for increasing speed of construction. 

  • Treatment of bamboo- Elaborate procedures of treatment also is a major issue in usage for bamboo by contactors.  Quality treated bamboo is a mandatory requirement for structurally safe, economical and long lasting bamboo buildings. Governments need to set up treatment plants near forests and other areas for value addition to bamboo from the forest areas and ensure continued and sufficient supply of bamboo in bamboo depots. SHGs and JFMs could be financed by the govt to set up these units creating large livelihood opportunities to otherwise economically poor and marginalized bamboo communities.

  • Raising the standards of implementation: In India, bamboo is a well established building component but generally seems quite poorly implemented most of the time. Concrete and steel structures for buildings are typically difficult to prepare and assemble, requiring skilled workers and quality materials for any truly successful result. Bamboo offers an easier alternative to that process. However, the implementation of bamboo structures seem to be generally quite poor, with poor planning, design and specification being abandoned in favour of other building techniques. We need to form superior guidelines and frameworks for building of bamboo structures.  A multi-purpose kit for setting up bamboo structures that includes pre-fabricated connections, tools and instructions can be made available. In this way, we will empower the execution team with basic building skills to become more confident bamboo building teams.

  • Elaborate, expensive and inaccurate testing methods- The testing procedures for bamboo building components are complex, expensive and inaccurate and unavailable most of the time. This makes it very uneconomical and difficult for the contractor to adhere to standards and timelines. Standard field tests for non-conventional materials will also provide rural communities greater equity in terms of safe, adequate, and reliable housing and sustainable development using local resources resulting in an improved standard of living and will serve both technical and social purposes.

Systemic Solution is the Key—The Road Ahead

The question is not just that of “Why not bamboo?” but that of “how to reach out to promote it”. If bamboo technology is made convenient to handle and promoted along with standards, codes and bylaws, tied up with the legal and the financial machinery, then the entire package put together could go a long way in creating a gateway for bamboo and all other alternative materials and technologies.

A. Create a Parallel Construction Industry: A new segment of alternative building sector is needed to meet this challenge. A fresh look at the age-old materials and technologies, repackaged to blend with the current socio-cultural environment, and the demands of the time, is inevitable. Measures need to be evolved to formulate techno – financial models or system mechanisms which should operationally be able to transform an architecturally designed bamboo house into an easily accessible commodity which can be treated as an asset or an investment, attracting speculation for its value appreciation. It could be visualized as a material which shall simultaneously create a parallel construction Industry, while also being commercially beneficial for the owner. This would encourage investment in bamboo buildings. In this context it would be beneficial to review global best practices for alternative technologies, where the Policies, have led to an increase in the efficiency in construction and distribution, of bamboo buildings.

B. Selection and Looping: In order to arrive at a standard package several looped packages linking, limitations, potentials and possibilities, measures, Policies and the Legislative-techno-financial models are expected to be generated, through experiences, developments, innovative break-through and traditional practices. All these are inter-dependent factors and only by connecting all these factors appropriately, a reasonably workable package with a comprehensive strategy can be evolved.

Unless policies are converted into programs, programs are converted into projects, projects are converted in small action plans, carried out by heterogeneous groups of multi-tasking professionals, who can take responsibility of hands-on delivery, Bamboo building technology, would forever remain a part of ambitious Policies.

Adjaye on CNN program on Vo Trong Nghia: “Lots of people place trees around you, but he incorporates it into the DNA of the architecture. If you strip the nature out of his architecture, you strip the architecture.” Vo Trong Nghia believes that bamboo is the steel of the 21st century:


International Journal of Architecture, Engineering and Construction
Vol.1, No. 2, June 2012, pp. 66-75 Ref: Structural Use of Full Culm Bamboo: The Path to Standardization Kent A. Harries¤, Bhavna Sharma, Michael Richard Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, United States

International Journal of Chemical, Environmental & Biological Sciences (IJCEBS) Volume 1, Issue 2 (2013) ISSN 2320 –4087 (Online)
Can Bamboo Replace Steel as Reinforcement in Concrete, for the key Structural Elements in a Low Cost House, Designed for the Urban Poor? Chandra. Sabnani, Madhuwanti. Latkar and Utpal. Sharma

International Journal of Biological, Ecological and Environmental Sciences (IJBEES) Vol. 2, No. 1, 2013 ISSN 2277 – 4394Can Whole Bamboo Be Used For Low Cost Mass Housing near Bamboo Growing Regions For The Urban Poor?
Chandra. Sabnani, Madhuwanti. Latkar and Utpal. Sharma

International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, Volume 5, Issue 7, July-2014 16 ISSN 2229-5518Is dilution of Standards in housing using conventional materials as against using alternative materials like bamboo a solution to increasing affordability among the urban poor? Chandra Sabnani, Mukesh Patel
International Journal of Architecture, Engineering and Construction Vol.1, No. 2, June 2012, pp. 66-75 Ref: Structural Use of Full Culm Bamboo: The Path to Standardization Kent A. Harries¤, Bhavna Sharma, Michael Richard Department of

Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, United States
International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 7, July 2014 1 ISSN 2250-3153The Deliverance System for mass Housing for the Urban Poor in India, using Bamboo as an Alternative Building Material.
Chandra Sabnani*, Mukesh Patel** *Department of Architecture and Planning, Visveswaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur. India, **Mukesh Patel Architects and Associates, Nairobi, Kenya

EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010 ‘From Small Steps to Giant Leaps...putting research into practice’ Hosted by The Royal Academy of Engineering 19th February 2010 Panel Presentation: Habitat Author: G. Leake, K. Toole, P. Divis, C. Torres-Sánchez Institution: University of Strathclyde 1

Bamboo as a solution for low-cost housing and storage in Pabal (India) G. Leake, K. Toole, P. Divis, C. Torres-Sánchez11

World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology Vol:6 2012-11-27Bamboo -An Alternative Building Material for Modest Houses, to Increase the Stock of Affordable Housing, for the Urban Poor Living Close to Bamboo Producing Regions in India; Chandra Sabnani, M. V. Latkar, and Utpal Sharma


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