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Pre-Engineered Bamboo Structures: A Step Towards Sustainable Construction

Suresh Bhalla1, Roger P. West2, Diwaker Bhagat3, , Mukul Gupta4 Aaarti Nagpal5
1

Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi, New Delhi 110016
Email: sbhalla@civil.iitd.ac.in
4
Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental
Engineering, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
3
Research Scholar, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi, New Delhi 110016
5
Former Undergraduate student, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi,
New Delhi 110016
4
Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Architecture, IP estate, New Delhi 110002
ABSTRACT: This paper presents the new developments undertaken by the bamboo
research group (BRG) at IIT Delhi in the area of sustainable construction. Bamboo is
a natural grass, which grows fully in much less time and with much less resources as
compared to timber, which is fast depleting across the world. A scientific design
approach has been formulated recently by BRG along with detailed material
characterization (which includes both strength and elastic characterization) of the
common Indian species dendrocalamus strictus. This is followed by the development
of modular structural components, which, when connected, can pave way for preengineered construction. In order to achieve easy connect ability, special steel shoes
have been developed which easily fix at the ends of the bamboo culms, hold up there
through friction, and impart weld ability as well as bolting. The paper also briefly
describes the development of high capacity flexural/ compression members, which
can pave way for the construction of full portal frame of multistory buildings.
INTRODUCTION
Bamboo is a versatile, strong, renewable and environment-friendly material. It is a
member of the grass family, and the fastest growing woody plant on earth. Most
bamboo species produce mature fibre in three to four years after sowing, much sooner
than any tree species. Some bamboos grow up to 1 metre a day, with many reaching
culm lengths of 25 metres or more. Bamboo can be grown quickly and easily, and
sustainably harvested in 3 to 5 years cycles. It can grow on marginal and degraded
land, elevated ground, along field bunds and river banks. It adapts to most climatic
conditions and soil types, acting as a soil stabilizer, an effective carbon sink and
helping to counter the greenhouse effect (Bhalla et al., 2008). Although throughout
the past, especially in India, it has been used in rural buildings, it needs to be
characterized for strength and other properties. Also, scientific design approach needs
to be developed on lines of concrete and steel before can be used in an economical
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fashion for widespread modern urban as well as rural construction. Recently, there
has been rapid progress in this regard as a result of the ground breaking work done by
the bamboo research group (BRG) at IIT Delhi. This paper briefly presents an
overview of the recent developments in this front, starting from material
characterization, development of scientific design methodology and development of
pre-engineered modular components, both moderate and high capacity.
MECHANICAL CHARACTERIZATION
A comprehensive test plan was undertaken by BRC to carry out the complete
mechanical characterization of two varieties of dendrocalamus strictus grown in
Assam, red type and black type. The detailed test methodologies and results can be
found in Bhalla and Shaw (2012). Fig.1 shows the failure pattern of four typical
specimens tested as part of the project. Based on large number of tests, characteristic
strengths were worked out in line with the standard practice in concrete industry. In
summary, the typical characteristic compressive strengths of black and red bamboo
were found to be 63 MPa and 44 MPa respectively. The respective characteristic
tensile strengths were measured to be 76 MPa and 62 MPa respectively.

FIG. 1. Representative bamboo specimens tested for compressive strength.

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERATE CAPACITY BUILT UP BAMBOO


BEAMS AND COLUMNS
The next step after material characterization is the fabrication of built up beams and
columns. In this endeavour, the BRC came out with a new kind of built up beams/
columns consisting of bamboo culms tied together by half-split bamboo battens using

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steel fastners. A complete view of one such column is shown in Fig. 2. These columns
were tested at the Structures Lab, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental
Engineering, Trinity College, University of Dublin. The details of the test can be
found in Kajjam et al. (2012).
Suitable steel fixtures were developed and characterized, as shown in Fig. 3(a), to
impart weld ability to the built up columns. The striking feature of the fixture is that
it does not involve any drilling in the culm. The fixture is attached to the culm by
tightening two half split pipe pieces using bolts tightened to a specific torque level.
The fixture was experimentally characterized and details can be found in Gupta et al.
(2013). The fixtures enable fixing of base plate at the bottom of the column as shown
in Fig. 2(b). This makes the columns easily connectable to the foundations, resulting
in the erection of the total bent up portal frame in pre-engineered fashion, as shown in
Fig. 4 (a). The complete erection process can be visualized through video link
available at: http://web.iitd.ac.in/~sbhalla/video.html.

FIG. 2. A full scale built up bamboo column.

(a)
(b)
FIG. 3. (a) Typical fixture for bamboo (b) Welding of column to base plate

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FIG. 4. Representative graphics embedded within the format of the paper.

Possible applications of this system include construction of cattle sheds, ware houses
and rural industrial sheds. They can also possibly be employed to construct stylish
activity centres in colleges and commercial hubs, a typical artistic impression of one
such centre is shown in Fig. 4(b). Wind load analysis of a typical frame can be
accessed from the related project reports Gupta (2014) and Chauhan (2012). The
above developments took place as part of the R&D project Bamboo as a green
engineering material in rural housing and agricultural structures for sustainable
economic growth (Gupta et al., 2012).
DEVELOPMENT OF HIGH CAPACITY FLEXURAL MEMBERS
The above developments are suitable for moderate capacity members, such as
battened either beams or columns. However, these cannot be employed for multistory
constructions where the frame members are likely to encounter large loads, including
lateral loads. For such structures, the BRC has come out with novel fibre reinforced
composite bamboo (FRCB) members (Bhagat, 2014). These members can be easily
joined together to result in a rigid portal frame with the help of steel rebars cast with
epoxy concrete. Fig. 5 shows one such frame, about 3x3 m in dimensions, ready for
testing at the at the Structures Lab at the Department of Civil, Structural and
Environmental Engineering, Trinity College, University of Dublin. Three such
prototype frame were tested for combined vertical and lateral loads. The test data is
still being analyzed. In overall, the tests clearly established the feasibility of such high
capacity rigid frame being employed in modern multistory buildings.

CONCLUSIONS
This paper has presented the recent research work carried out by BRC at IIT Delhi
towards realization of pre-engineered bamboo structures for modern sustainable
construction. A scientific design methodology has been developed based on structural

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engineering principles and the mechanical properties, including strength and stiffness
available from rigorous testing of the common Indian species dendrocalamus strictus.
Suitable steel fixtures have been developed to impart connect ability to the members,
including welding. The entire fabrication can be carried out in a workshop in rural
settings and the final fabrication be done with fast speed at the site using the
principles of pre-engineered construction. The technology has immense potential for
countries like India which have large wastelands and suitable climate where bamboo
species can be easily cultivated.

FIG. 2. Representative graphics embedded within the format of the paper.

REFERENCES
Bhalla, S., Gupta, S., Puttaguna, S. and Suresh, R. (2008), Bamboo as green
alternative to concrete and steel for modern structures, J. Env. Res. & Dvpt., Vol.
3 (2): 362-370.
Bhalla, S. and Shaw, A. (2013), Engineering characterization of bamboo as a
sustainable alternative to steel, Proc. UKIERI Congress on Innovations in
Concrete Construction, 05-08 March, B. R. Ambdekar National Institute of
Technology, Jalandhar, paper no UCC-490
Bhagat, D., Gupta, M. and Bhalla, S. (2013), Composite bamboo junction elements
for structural applications, Proc. Innovative Techniques in Civil and
Environmental Engineering (SITCEE-2013), 05-06 June, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi(Published in special edition in the Int. J. of Civil Engg. &
Appls.), Vol. 3(7):36-41.

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Bhagat, D. (2014), Engineered Bamboo Structures: Fabrication and testing of high


capacity bamboo fibre reinforced composite members, Ph. D. Synopsis,
Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi.
Chauhan (2012), Analysis and design of bamboo based cowshed, B. Tech. Project,
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