Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

Bamboo-Guadua composites for construction

At a glance

Funding body: COLFUTURO loan-scholarship program
Principal investigator: Martin Ansell
Researcher: Hector Archila-Santos
Dates: 2010-2013


Characterized by its natural structure as a hollow cylinder and extraordinary mechanical properties, Bamboo-Guadua (Guadua Angustifolia Kunt) is a fast growth woody species of bamboo, native from tropical American regions. In Countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica it is widely used as a construction material for structural purposes, wall panels, ceilings, roofs and also for decoration. Although, Guadua’s usability and environmental contributions has been proved in several small and large-scale buildings worldwide, most of them overlook inherent drawbacks of this natural material, such as short durability when exposed to UV rays, humidity and easy flammability (thin walls and empty internal diaphragms provide instant ignition).

The principal research’s aim is to exploit this renewable resource from an innovative approach by developing structural composites for construction, tackling its weakness and making good use of its high fibre content and different sections along his height . Aspects such as green processing, service life and end of life disposal will be evaluated. Whilst there is a strong interest worldwide in using bamboo in construction and developing bamboo composites, a distinctive feature of the candidate’s work in Bath will relate to developing high strength, high modulus bamboo composites with applications in construction. Comprehensive review of the literature will be undertaken in conjunction with experimentation and a detailed examination of bamboo microstructure using optical and electron microscopy.

Cross-sections of bamboo will be imaged to identify structural components such as the stiff vascular bundles and transmission electron microscopy will identify cellular-level features. Mechanical properties of bamboo will be measured using micro-bend specimens as a function of position in the bamboo stem. Options for producing high performance composites will be explored either by combining bamboo fibres with bio-polymer matrixes or by reinforcing the bamboo with other fibre composites.

The developed novel composites will be incorporated in architectural structures based on Guadua, particularly in critical areas such as joints and load bearing elements of buildings. Full-scale components will be tested in the structures laboratory.

Collaborative work between companies, universities and research centres from Colombia and the UK is expected. - In Colombia, National University of Colombia and the Andes’ University which both have a track record in evaluating the mechanical properties of bamboo and bamboo laminates. Amphibia Group Ltd, Arme Ideas en Guadua Ltd and the Colombian Bamboo Society are commercial organisations which will supply materials and expertise. In the UK, some initiatives using bamboo have been carried out by The Bamboo Society, Eden Project and Golden Oak. TRADA Technology is developing low cost housing based on bamboo.

Overall this research will provide some knowledge to better exploit the bamboo resources of Colombia in the construction sector.