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Using Bamboo in permanent housing

Is it possible / advisable?

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This is a big subject! The answer is affected by who is paying for the work and how permanent you want the bamboo to be. Bamboo is readily attacked by termites, woodworm and wet rot, according to the conditions.

My experience, obtained via the University of Exeter Housing & Hazards Group, is of self-build houses in Bangladesh, where bamboo frames are the cheapest option for self-builders. We experimented with simple treatments that ordinary people can afford, such as using bitumen and engine oil to resist rot. Chemical treatments can be used: These give better protection but can be very hazardous to the operatives who apply them if the treatment is not done properly. The jointing systems used are critical to the longer term stability of bamboo frames - in Bangladesh they are often tied with jute string, which stretches so that the joints loosen with time. More sophisticated joints can prevent this.

We have also looked at flood-proofing mud construction with cement stabilisation. Some of my group's experiences are available in the proceedings of some seminars we did in Dhaka. Copies are in the RedR library and on our web-site There are also some guidelines being drafted as part of the Cyclone Sidr rehab programmes. The Sidr Shelter Coordination Group website includes links to H&H and to an ADPC publication on housing in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh (written by an H&H member) that may be useful. Look at

I emphasise that our efforts have been directed towards supporting self-builders. A lot of the challenges are in communicating information widely and we also developed traditional drama/singing groups to do this. The Sidr programmes are building on that start so there should soon be more experience of field motivational work. However, if your programmes are providing complete houses/kits and can afford factory-made or treated materials then our experiences may be less relevant. Also, architecture varies a lot from place to place and your structures will almost certainly have different features that we haven't considered Regards Robert Hodgson

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2014-01-13 07:44:41 -0600
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Last updated:
Jan 13 '14