Much Ado About Bamboo
From humble roots, bamboo boasts a tensile strength greater than steel and mightier than oak. One of the fastest growing plants on earth, some species grow up to two inches per hour and reach heights in excess of 100 feet. Traditionally harvested at dawn or dusk on a full moon, construction grade bamboo’s high yield and low volatile organic compound (VOC ) emissions make it an ideal raw product for a modern building trade seeking to transport it from its utilitarian roots in scaffolding to the pinnacle of high design. Regenerating to full mass within six months – unlike conventional woods which take from ten to fifty years – not only does bamboo remove more carbon dioxide and produce more oxygen than the same number of trees, but harvesting leaves root systems intact preventing soil erosion. It is bamboo’s flexibility, versatility and durability that make the rise of this design industry underdog the ultimate tale of triumph.
Resonating natural warmth and rich aesthetic beauty, sustainably harvested bamboo has become the first choice for eco-abodes on the lookout for contemporary, earth-friendly products without compromising chic-factor. Offering a variety of products, companies like BambooHardwoods zealously market high-quality bamboo wares, many of them Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC), in the earnest belief that using wood alternatives is one giant step for sustainability. Moisture resistant and with a simulated wood grain surface, BambooComposite interlocking decking tiles are formulated using bamboo powder by-products and polyethylene high-density recycled plastics (HDPE) meaning decking has never been so eco-sensitive or well suited for tropical living.
With industry innovators like Smith & Fong marketing sustainable, design-rich, formaldehyde-free products like their PlybooPure range – sold and produced via FSC chain-of-custody companies – bamboo looks to be raising the stakes on its competitors. Derived from forests using no pesticides, irrigation or fertilisers, Plyboo’s architectural plywood can be cut, sanded, stained and finished like wood and, unlike cedar or pine, it is naturally termite resistant due to high concentrations of silica in its fibres – a major attraction for those in the Caribbean. Flooring and veneer lines are sleek and sophisticated, offering a surprisingly diverse array of unique looks that explore colour, texture, contour and grain.
Launching the world’s first engineered bamboo dimensional lumber, Cali Bamboo’s Lumboo debuted on the market in March 2010, signalling yet another victory for green businesses looking to ‘make a difference’. Five years in the making, the practically indestructible lumber is formulated from 100% compressed bamboo strips, configured into a matrix for optimal structural integrity. Milled and sanded, Lumboo accepts patented sealants and colour finishes to give conventional wood products a run for their money, and is touted to have withstood floods, heat waves and hurricanes. Finally… a guilt-free product that offers no sacrifice on beauty or functionality.
In a market eager to embrace ecologically sound products and turn the tide on environmental irresponsibility, the strong, fast growing and resilient bamboo continues to cause riptides of excitement around the Caribbean, holding within its natural fibres the promise of a new era of design-with-a-difference. After all, as the old Chinese proverb says: ‘If we do not change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.”
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