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  1. #1
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    Bamboo Eco House Build

    About two years ago, my wife bought 4 rai in Nakhon Nayok. We wanted to put a small house there, but weren't keen on the concrete boxes common these days.

    I've always been interested in sustainability, especially in building. Trying to keep things simple, I looked at what was possible and realized bamboo was an option. Bamboo is the world's fastest growing plant and poles can be harvested annually, unlike trees which have a turnaround of about 30 years. It has been used by the majority of the world as a building for thousands of years.

    Pound for pound it is as strong as mild steel. It has great tensile strength, which is why it is increasingly popular in earthquake zones of South America.

    Having decided on bamboo I looked around for varieties.
    l
    The picture above is Pai Liang, a common variety in Thailand. It's a fast grower, with poles of 40-60mm. Despite it's small size, it's very strong and is great for bracing and rafters.



    This is Pai Tong (D. Asper). One of the best giant bamboos for construction it's quite straight, with poles of 100 - 250mm in diameter and 20m long.



    This photo gives and idea of the growth rate of bamboo. The large shoot is only a couple of weeks old. There are some bamboos that can grow over 1m a day.

    While bamboo grows to it's full size in 1 yr, it takes 3 years before it's fully mature and useful for construction. Young bamboo is weak, prone to cracking and more prone to insect attack. We found that most bamboo is harvested before maturity. This was no good for us so we made arrangements with a farmer to select and help harvest the bamboo. The huge poles are like trees, while they're easy to chop down, they get tangled and among the other poles, which makes harvesting a bloody nightmare.

    As most ppl know, bamboo is prone to rot, mold and insect attack. To be used for long term structures it needs to be preserved. There are many chemicals used for this, most of them quite nasty. Borax is a very safe and rather than killing pests, it acts more like deterrent.

    The method we choose is called sap displacement, this involves using pressure to push the borax solution thru the basal end of the bamboo. A few seconds after the pressure is applied, sap drips from the other end of the pole, as can be seen in this vdo ">
    Last edited by Smithson; 26-04-2010 at 09:38 PM.

  2. #2
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    sounds fun

    I have stayed in bamboo houses several times, although they were simple structures, they were cool

  3. #3
    I am in Jail
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    Thanks for an interesting report
    Will you use for all and tie or nail,slot joints?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaddyGreen View Post
    Thanks for an interesting report
    Will you use for all and tie or nail,slot joints?
    Joints are to be drilled with bolts or bamboo dowels. Wire will also be used, lashed joints look better, but tend to loosen up.

  5. #5
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    When we bought the land, there was an old house in really poor condition. Rather than rushing to build something new, we decided to make some basic repairs to give us somewhere to stay on weekends and breathing space while we decided what to build.

    This is the house before the repairs:



    The rusted iron made the place really hot, so we added a thin layer of thatch and some walls for a bedroom.



    The idea was for the repair to last 2 years, in which time we'd have enough knowledge and know what we wanted to build.

    The two years are up, the thatch has worn out, the roof leaks and the termites are eating away at the timber...

    Last edited by Smithson; 26-04-2010 at 11:17 PM.

  6. #6
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    DESIGN
    Rather than being a luxury, I think sustainable housing is a necessity and therefore shouldn't be too expensive. Below are some of the things I took into consideration when designing:
    - No use of petrochemicals

    - Recycling of wastewater and humanure

    - As little 'embodied energy' as possible in materials (i.e. not having traveled long distances or requiring heaps of energy to produce, mine etc.)

    - No rubbish produced from the building site

    - Be energy efficient (no air con or lights required during daylight hours

    - Should be affordable, comfortable, blend with the surrounding and look half decent

    From what I read about building with bamboo, models are more useful than plans. This is especially true in our case, as the workers can't read plans. Below is the unfinished model:



    Because we are using a thatch roof, we have gone for a 45 pitch. This will help with ventilation and provide a mezzanine floor and bedroom with nice views over Khao Yai.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smithson
    as can be seen in this vdo ">
    link sends me to the 'recent TD thread' page.... ???



    Looking forward to see a lot of green, disguised as a house


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gipsy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Smithson
    as can be seen in this vdo ">
    link sends me to the 'recent TD thread' page.... ???
    Here's the link, can't figure out how to embed it

  9. #9
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    While we were waiting for our repaired house to fall apart we built a small structure for practice, this would become our treatment area.



    This building was finished about 6 months ago.

    Before starting, we had a look at different bamboo building techniques. We talked about the pros and cons of different methods, what suited our situation and then decided how to proceed. I've done a heap of research on bamboo, but these guys also have a lot of local knowledge, it was good to put our heads together.

    First we sorted the bamboo based on size and straightness, altogether we had over 50 large poles of 7m - 9m in length.



    As we were still sleeping in the house, we prefabbed as much as possible before taking the roof off.

    Using the holesaw to make neat joints.



    Using smaller diameter bamboo plugs to connect poles.


    Inserting bamboo dowels

  10. #10
    Member maraudingscot's Avatar
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    cool, looking good, and could be an interesting thread. diff from usual bloke bins and wood structures. Will watch with interest.

  11. #11
    ................... sunsetter's Avatar
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    great thread, completely different, love it

  12. #12
    Member jaiyenyen's Avatar
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    Very interesting thread, and great photos.
    Is that a glue, or paste being used with those bamboo dowels?

  13. #13
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    Agree 100% re models being the answer when the craftsmen can't read a drawing.

    Colleague of mine had a new workshop built in CAR successfully by commandeering his lads' ( and my sons ) LEGGO and spending half a day with the work gang sitting around my workbench with a coupla crates of beer !
    Good time was had by all and the new workshop went up in record time with very few problems !!

  14. #14
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    We are using PVA glue with the dowels and then tightly wrapping them with wire.

    The models are great and really necessary for bamboo, because unlike other materials, there are very few joints that butt up to each other. Most joints have pieces crossing over on different planes, it's difficult to show this on a plan. The only real way to know it'll work is to do it in 3d.

    The model is 1:50, it's simple to use for accurate measurements, however the guys just walk away when I show them. They happy to learn how to use different tools or bamboo joints, but seem scared of plans. It's a shame because it's such a basic but important skill.

  15. #15
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    Sanding of a joint
    sanding.jpg (29.86 KiB) Viewed 5 times

    Unlike timber, bamboo fibers only run along the length of the pole, not width-ways. This is what gives it such tensile strength, it's also makes it inclined to split.

    Making bamboo dowels:

  16. #16
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    We'd done as much prefab as possible, so it was time to start on the old house.

    First the roof and old timber came off.



    The old place has concrete columns. In places where there are walls, we only shorten the columns 500mm. In open areas we remove them completely, replacing with bamboo. To create a more open plan, one of the columns will be removed and there will be no bamboo replacement.



    As we belted away, the walls shook, with a small section hitting one of the workers. We then decided to remove all unstable walls by simply attaching a rope and pulling the whole thing down.

    The dangers of falling walls didn't not mean a review of safety standards.



    The first column went up, this has rebar and concrete in the bottom 500mm.



    Other columns and beams went in. Plastic bag were placed around these to protect from sun and rain.



    Trusses went up.



    All 4 trusses are now in place, the house is much higher than before.

  17. #17
    Mmmm, Bowling...... mobs00's Avatar
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    We have a few bamboo structures on the property and they will only last a few years at the most.

    Insects and weather, including rot will take their toll. Some pieces will have to be replaced over time so they are great for temporary structures but nothing too permanent.

    You'll find at times that there will be a dust pile on the floor. There are little worms that love borrowing through the bamboo and dropping piles of dust all over the place.

    Other than that they are great and really stay cool even when it's quite hot outside.

  18. #18
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    You are correct, untreated bamboo has a short life span. To protect against insects and rot, we treated the poles with borax. The process is detailed in my first post.

    I believe it will be effective, we followed the procedure thoroughly and tested the poles with a special solution.

    The poles dried alongside untreated bamboo, all of which was badly attacked, whereas the preserved stuff is fine.

    I'm guessing 15 - 20 years for the building. The odd pole that gets a bit of sun may need replacing, but this is fine because they just unbolt. We have a lot of bamboo on the property. When it matures in a few years, I think there'll be enough to build a house of similar size every two years.

  19. #19
    Dan
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    Good luck with it all - it's looking good. You'll be finished long before I am.

  20. #20
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    Great stuff. Really interesting as I've never seen it done before. Will definitely be interested in the finished product.

  21. #21
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    interesting - are there guidelines as to the allowable strength of the bamboo that you used for the structural design - or just a seat-of-the pants approach?

  22. #22
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    Excellent a bamboo house.
    Very nice idea.
    Wish you every success in your build.

  23. #23
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    Lookin good.

    Did you get a building permit first ?

  24. #24
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    All necessary paperwork is in order.

  25. #25
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    Please rai = sq meters.....

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