Bamboo: The Building Material of a Better Tomorrow

Miami's own Brent Knoll, of Knoll Landscape Design, makes sustainability and ecological responsibility his top priority. Fortunately for Brent's clients, his application of sustainability brings style and flare.  We know, of course, that growing our own food is one of the most sustainable and ecologically responsible things we can do. It revitalizes our soil, fortifies our health, saves countless barrels of fossil fuel, and builds a healthy natural relationship for the generations to come. But what about the other aspects of our lifestyle? What about the materials we use to build our houses, furniture, floors, etc.?

Did you know that it can take up to 30 trees to build the average single family home? Did you know that at least 7,000 sq. kilometers of rainforest are cleared annually for lumber use?  As the population grows and we need to build more homes these numbers are only climbing, and at this rate we are rapidly losing our most pristine and important global forests.

What can be done? As we are collectively coming to admit that, for the sake of our planet, we must find an alternative source of energy to fossil fuel, we must also collectively search for a viable alternative to our conventional construction materials. Just like internal combustion, the industrial standard of pine lumber was a shortsighted and ecologically impractical idea from its inception. While seeming convenient and lucrative in the moment, the rate of growth and the required means of procurement make it a highly destructive and ecologically jeopardizing endeavor with zero chance of sustainability.

As this industrial nightmare closes in on our most vital ecological resources, our hero, bamboo, most certainly comes to the rescue. Bamboo shows us that we haven't necessarily chosen the wrong trees for the job, but maybe we've chosen the wrong plant altogether. Most trees take quite a long time to reach a stage in which they could be harvested for viable lumber. Trees also are a home for so many species of animals; from birds and squirrels, to ants and bees. Bamboo on the other hand is actually a grass; and we all know how rapidly and abundantly grass propagates itself.

Bamboo has a growth rate that exponentially exceeds that of conventional lumber trees.  Coniferous trees, such as southern pine or Douglas Fir, are not ready to be harvested for at least 30-35 years. That means that once the logging industry harvests part of a pine forest, that forest will not fully regenerate for at least two decades.

Bamboo on the other hand, is ready to be harvested in as little as four months. This means that if you harvest your lumber from bamboo plants to build your home, the lumber you harvested could regenerate before the construction of your home was even finished!

Now that we've seen how bamboo blows away the competition in rate of growth, let’s look at how it stacks up in the strength department. Surely our conventional lumber, that we have been using for so long to build our homes, must be much stronger than bamboo, right? Not even close.

Despite the hollow structure of the bamboo culms, they are extremely durable, and what's even more important, extremely pliable. When a structure made with standard lumber boards faces heavy strain from wind or shifting earth, the boards can warp, split, and even snap. When bamboo faces the same strain it bends and flexes to keep the structure intact. In fact, there are many regions of the world that are prone to regular earthquakes where bamboo is used as the primary building material. In these regions bamboo is considered virtually earthquake proof.

One of the most troubling issues of our conventional lumber system is the havoc wreaked on our forests by the collateral damage of the logging process. Trucking in the large machines necessary for that job is a loud and dirty process which does not go unnoticed by the surrounding ecosystem. The trees harvested in this process have been housing entire biological systems and many species of living creatures for decades before the saw falls upon their bark. The practical reality of this process is heartbreaking and not something any of us would want to be a part of.

Bamboo can grow anywhere, and is harvested relatively simply. The rapid growth rate almost requires significant harvesting, and because of the quick turnover rate and lean structure, bamboo doesn't generally shelter wildlife long term.

In Asia, bamboo is widely used in all types of construction from family homes to sky scrapers and large bridges. Even now in our country, this earth saving concept is catching on; but is it catching on quick enough?

From furniture to flooring, bamboo is now being used as a sustainable and efficient alternative. Yet, because the conventional lumber industry has become such a strong institution the masses are reluctant to let go and embrace the change. A mix of corporate greed and general ignorance, this reluctance could be a great detriment to the revitalization of our eco system. Until the awareness and demand for this magical plant steadily rises, the materials will need to be imported and the cost to the consumer will not reflect the ultimate efficiency of such a product.

What can we do? We can realize it from the grass roots. If we want to see this change in our culture and society, then we can be that change ourselves; right from our own backyards. Bamboo can grow almost anywhere, and as luck would have it, in our sunny South Florida climate we can play host to quite a wide range of beautiful and exotic bamboo species.

By using bamboo in your edible organic landscape, you will be able to enjoy the elegant beauty, whimsical sounds, and reliable utility of this magical plant. Whether you are using it as lumber for your household DIY projects, or simply using it to replace the pine timber privacy fence, bamboo will enhance your landscape and ecological outlook in so many ways

Brent prizes his bamboo for their stunning beauty and their reliable sustainability; the two are inseparable as far as he is concerned. He loves his job because he knows that bringing our natural connections onto our back yard means saving the world with style, beauty, and grace. Brent knows that his organic gardens and edible landscape designs provide many levels of enjoyment for South Florida families.

The diverse beauty and abundant nutrition that the right organic edible landscape can provide will open us up to the inspiring realization that our relationship with nature always perpetuates abundance and prosperity. When we cultivate that relationship right in our own backyard we manifest that abundant prosperity in a way that is fully evident in our health, state of mind, and even our wallets.  We rest easier as we witness the process of what nature can provide for us freely, and most important of all, we know that the more intimately we engage in this relationship, the more we contribute to the healing and rejuvenation of the planet itself.

 

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