The Bamboo Builder
Xiao, now an engineering professor at the University of Southern California, scoured textbooks and the Internet, hoping to find historical precedent for structural bamboo. His research had urgency. Most of China has been stripped of timber-worthy trees, so rural buildings are often made of shoddy concrete, which is exactly what led to the catastrophic school collapses during the earthquakes in Sichuan province in May. What Xiao found wasn't terribly useful: a wealth of arty one-off projects, but nothing a contractor could ever build with.
Bamboo is a remarkable material. Some species have stalks as dense as hardwood. It's the world's fastest-growing woody plant, and it's an exceptionally good absorber of carbon. But its irregular, knotty form is a problem. Making a reliable bamboo structure used to mean picking through stalks to find the ones that met precise measurements. Timber, on the other hand, can be cut to standard sizes. So Xiao set about developing a process to transform bamboo strips into easy-to-manage beams [see "The Sustainable Bridge"]. In 2006 he devised GluBam, bamboo timber sturdy enough for beams and trusses. Last winter, he returned to China and, using just an eight-man crew and no machinery, built a 33-foot GluBam bridge capable of supporting eight tons in the remote, ramshackle Hunan province town of Leiyang. The feat was so surprising, it was covered on China's national news.
Since then, Xiao has been busy building GluBam houses and classrooms in parts of Sichuan leveled by earthquakes. But he hopes that GluBam's most positive effect might be an overhaul of the bamboo industry itself. China produces up to a third of the world's bamboo—Hunan a quarter of that output—but much of it goes to low-value, barely profitable uses, such as concrete molds and chopsticks. GluBam could spark a dynamic industry in China and provide a sustainable replacement for current forestry operations worldwide. "That was the intent all along," Xiao says. "This could open a vast market. It could create a whole new source of money and jobs."—Cliff Kuang
This method of construction will save on costs. I understand that feldspar will someday replace concrete too.
I agree with Simon Mayport! The larger damage still continues with poor production methods and misuse of the globes natural resources. In order for real and lasting change, businesses including manufacturers must cease producing unhealthy products, including cars, some plastics, food stuff and medical supplies.