Fire-Safe Bamboo

This sustainable material could transform Australia’s construction industry

Fire testing bamboo in UQ laboratory

A passion for sustainable construction led UQ PhD student Mateo Gutierrez to explore the potential of bamboo as an environmentally friendly local building material.

Bamboo is fast becoming a popular choice in Australia for flooring and furniture, but Mr Gutierrez said global construction industries could be transformed if building regulations incorporated bamboo as a structural building material option.

UQ Researcher, Mateo inspecting bamboo
UQ researcher fire testing bamboo in UQ laboratory
UQ Researcher, Mateo inspecting bamboo
UQ researcher fire testing bamboo in UQ laboratory

“Bamboo is an excellent building material because it is highly renewable and it has remarkable mechanical properties, it’s lightweight, flexible and strong,” Mr Gutierrez said.

“It’s fast-growing as it is actually a grass, which increases the turnaround of harvests from timber’s 30 years to three years for bamboo poles – there are many benefits.”

After joining the University’s fire safety engineering research group, UQ Fire, in 2016, Mr Gutierrez, a structural engineer by trade, began looking at the performance of bamboo structures when exposed to fire.

Global company MOSO International has provided the UQ Fire team with industry support, contributing engineered bamboo beams for laboratory-based fire testing.

“During testing, we found that when burning, bamboo creates a char layer that protects the inner layers that are not directly exposed to fire, which means it’s relatively hard-wearing in a fire” he said.

“Like timber, bamboo suffers a reduction in structural integrity at high temperatures, but our goal is to understand how that reduction occurs and how we can predict the failure of load-bearing elements in a building.

“We aim to develop design frameworks that can predict how bamboo buildings will fare in fires, and these could be used to inform revisions of the Australian building regulations, and perhaps see bamboo in Australian urban environments.”

Preparing bamboo for fire testing in UQ laboratory
Bamboo being burnt in UQ laboratory

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