Although it has been relegated to a minor and largely decorative role in modern construction, bamboo is potentially an ideal building material, especially in a country like Costa Rica with a mild climate and ample supplies of bamboo and good conditions for growing much more. As architects, builders and the public at large are becoming more familiar with the properties and potential of bamboo, it is gaining popularity, respect and a more prominent role in construction.
The benefits of bamboo are many. From an environmental point of view, there are few materials that demand less in terms of resources and energy in production and processing; and the use of bamboo, which grows quickly and thus sequesters carbon from the atmosphere at a higher rate than wood, is very climate friendly.
From an engineering viewpoint, bamboo, if property treated and utilized, is among the very strongest of natural building materials, as the construction of multi-story buildings, bridges and centuries-old houses around the world attests. According to bamboo building experts, there are few limits to the uses of bamboo, especially in the construction of smaller structures such as homes.
Economically, building with bamboo is comparable to conventional construction, but as it grows in popularity, and supplies of construction-grade guadua bamboo, processing capacity, and trained builders and laborers increases, the cost of building with bamboo should drop sharply.
Bamboo is also beautiful, used either as the primary element in construction or in combination with other materials such as wood, stone, tile, glass and concrete.
In Costa Rica, capacity to design and build with bamboo is growing, and excellent examples of bamboo construction exist throughout the country. There are an increasing number of suppliers, architects and builders experienced with bamboo construction, some of whom are included in the links below.
Finally, depending on the species and its age, bamboo can also be used to make beautiful furniture, paper, cloth, and can even be eaten.
Articles and Books
Robert Henrikson and David Greenberg, Bamboo Architecture
Simon Velez, Grow Your Own House
Steve Mack, An Unbeatable Building Material for Costa Rica? Stick to Bamboo, The Tico Times
Guadua Bamboo Construction