Tackling carbon emissions has become a priority for all industries as the world fights to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and protect the Earth from the detrimental effects of climate change. Research and development in every sector focus on innovating solutions that allow their operations to release significantly fewer carbon emissions, become carbon neutral, or even carbon negative.
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Construction Industry Emissions
The construction industry is one industry that must curb its carbon emissions as a matter of urgency. Recent figures have revealed that emissions associated with the building sector have reached a record high. When the operational emissions of buildings are added to those related to the actual construction process, the sector accounts for 38% of all energy-related carbon emissions.
Emissions from buildings must reduce by half by 2030 to get on track to meet a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. With 2019 figures revealing that the operation of buildings hit a record high in this year, drastic action must be taken to help the sector catch up with emissions goals.
Experts recommend that to tackle the soaring emissions of the building sector, low-carbon buildings must be prioritized. In recent years, numerous sustainable building materials have been developed for both low embodied carbon, as well as to help reduce operational emissions. Materials such as cob (made from subsoil, water, and usually straw, a material that has been used for thousands of years), recycled steel, reclaimed, recycled or sustainable wood, sheep’s wool, recycled plastic, cork, bamboo, hempcrete, timbercrete, and enviroboard are emerging as popular alternatives to commonly used building materials that contribute to carbon emissions.
Here, we discuss how Ivory Prize award-winning green timber bamboo solutions innovator BamCore is contributing to decarbonizing the building sector with its environmentally friendly, safe, and healthy timber bamboo building material. The company hopes the material will redefine low-rise buildings and contribute to the shift towards a greener building industry.
Making the Building Sector More Sustainable with Bamboo
While bamboo materials are often overlooked as a building material because of their perceived frailty, in reality, bamboo building alternatives are incredibly strong. Recent evidence has shown that bamboo has greater tensile strength than steel, and is better at withstanding compression than concrete.
Bamboo is also considered to be a sustainable and environmentally friendly building material. It is fast-growing and can be quickly replenished. For example, trees are harvested for materials in around 10 to 30 years, whereas bamboo can be harvested in just three to five years. It grows easily as a tree-like grass without the need for toxic pesticides and herbicides and requires very little water. Its shallow roots mean that bamboo can easily thrive in land that is unsuitable for growing other plants.
Bamboo does not require the nutrient-rich soil that trees rely on. Bamboo crops require minimal human interference and can yield materials for around 50 years without having to be replanted, meaning that the emissions associated with farming processes required to maintain crops are omitted. Due to its sustainability, in recent years bamboo has become the choice as a raw ingredient for many products from clothing to homewares.
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US-based BamCore has spent the last five years developing the world’s first global supply chain of timber bamboo. The company has developed its patented Prime Wall system which is a bamboo-based stud-less wall that has the potential to redefine low-rise buildings. The system is a stronger, greener, healthier, safer, and more thermally superior alternative to conventional framing solutions currently on the market.
To create the system, round hollow timber bamboo is processed in a patented, low embodied energy process that has zero reliance on chemicals, heat, or water. Highly engineered bamboo-wood hybrid structural panels alongside other building components are then constructed from the bamboo, resulting in super-strong materials with low carbon footprints.
Next, these panels are customized to meet the needs of the individual customer using advanced Building Information Modeling software. This process is carried out on-site to further reduce waste and carbon emissions.
Electrical/plumbing rough-ins and door and window installations are streamlined by integration of design, bid, and build. This streamlining further reduces the environmental impact of the build job.
2021 Ivory Prize Winner in Construction and Design: BamCore
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The Future of Bamboo in Construction
The new Prime Wall system is intended to replace traditional structural framing that uses unsustainable wood studs. The innovative system has had ten years of testing and is proven to be stronger and more sustainable than the traditional system.
The success of BamCore’s project demonstrates how bamboo building alternatives offer a solution to reducing the carbon footprint of the building sector. In the coming years, bamboo materials may become more commonplace as construction materials, which will likely help bring down the emissions of the sector to help it meet climate change goals.
References and Further Reading
Building sector emissions hit record high, but low-carbon pandemic recovery can help transform sector – UN report. (2020) [Online]. Available at: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/building-sector-emissions-hit-record-high-low-carbon-pandemic (Accessed on 1 October 2021).
Atanda, J. (2015) Environmental impacts of bamboo as a substitute constructional material in Nigeria. Case Studies in Construction Materials, 3, pp.33-39. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214509515300048
How It Works. [Online]. BamCore. Available at: https://www.bamcore.com/how-it-works/
Newsweek staff. (2018). Stronger Than Steel. [Online]. Available at: https://www.newsweek.com/stronger-steel-85533
The best way to build | The best way to live. [Online]. BamCore. Available at: https://www.bamcore.com
Ethan Schaler. (2021). SWIM -- Sensing with Independent Micro-swimmers. [Online]. NASA. Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2021_Phase_I/SWIM/