The use of bamboo as reinforcement in portland cement concrete has been studied extensively by Clemson Agricultural College. Bamboo has been used as a construction material in certain areas for centuries, but its application as reinforcement in concrete had received little attention until the Clemson study.

A study of the feasibility of using bamboo as the reinforcing material in precast concrete elements was conducted at the U. S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station in 1964. Ultimate strength design procedures, modified to take into account the characteristics of the bamboo reinforcement were used to estimate the ultimate load carrying capacity of the precast concrete elements with bamboo reinforcing.

Bamboo was given recent consideration for use as reinforcement in soil-cement pavement slabs in which the slabs behave in elastically even under light loads. For this case ultimate load analysis was shown to be more economical and suitable for use.

The results of these investigations form the basis of the conclusions and recommendations presented in this report. Further studies will be required before complete confidence can be placed theoretical designs based on the material presented here.

The following factors should be considered in the selection of bamboo culms (whole plants) for use as reinforcement in concrete structures:

    1. Use only bamboo showing a pronounced brown color. This will insure that the plant is at least three years old.
  • Select the longest large diameter culms available.
  • Do not use whole culms of green, unseasoned bamboo.
  1. Avoid bamboo cut in spring or early summer. These culms are generally weaker due to increased fiber moisture content.

Preparation

Sizing. Splints (split culms) are generally more desirable than whole culms as reinforcement. Larger culms should be split into splints approximately 3/4 inch wide. Whole culms less than 3/4 inch in diameter can be used without splitting.

Splitting the bamboo can he done by separating the base with a sharp knife and then pulling a dulled blade through the culm. The dull blade will force the stem to split open; this is more desirable than cutting the bamboo since splitting will result in continuous fibers and a nearly straight section.

Seasoning. When possible, the bamboo should be cut and allowed to dry and season for three to four weeks before using. The culms must be supported at regular spacings to reduce warping.

Bending. Bamboo can be permanently bent if heat, either dry or wet, is applied while applying pressure. This procedure can be used for forming splints into C-shaped stirrups and for putting hooks on reinforcement for additional anchorage.

Waterproof Coatings. When seasoned bamboo, either split or whole, is used as reinforcement, it should receive a waterproof coating to reduce swelling when in contact with concrete. Without some type of coating, bamboo will swell before the concrete has developed sufficient strength to prevent cracking and the member may be damaged, especially if more than 4 percent bamboo is used. The type of coating will depend on the materials available. A brush coat or dip coat of asphalt emulsion is preferable. Native latex, coal tar, paint, dilute varnish, and water-glass (sodium silicate) are other suitable coatings. In any case, only a thin coating should be applied; a thick coating will lubricate the surface and weaken the bond with the concrete.

In general, techniques used in conventional reinforced concrete construction need not he changed when bamboo is to be used for reinforcement.

Concrete Mix Proportions

The same mix designs can be used as would normally be used with steel reinforced concrete. Concrete slump should be as low as workability will allow. Excess water causes swelling of the bamboo. High early-strength cement is preferred to minimize cracks caused by swelling of bamboo when seasoned bamboo cannot be waterproofed.

Placement of bamboo

Bamboo reinforcement should not be placed less than 1-1/2 inches from the face of the concrete surface. When using whole culms, the top and bottom of the stems should be alternated in every row and the nodes or collars, should be staggered. This will insure a fairly uniform cross section of the bamboo throughout the length of the member, and the wedging effect obtained at the nodes will materially increase the bond between concrete and bamboo.

The clear spacing between bamboo rods or splints should not be less than the maximum size aggregate plus 1/4 inch. Reinforcement should be evenly spaced and lashed together on short sticks placed at right angles to the main reinforcement. When more than one layer is required, the layers should also be tied together. Ties should preferably be made with wire in important members. For secondary members, ties can be made with vegetation strips.

Bamboo must be securely tied down before placing the concrete. It should be fixed at regular intervals of 3 to 4 feet to prevent it from floating up in the concrete during placement and vibration. In flexural members continuous, one-half to two-thirds of the bottom longitudinal reinforcement should be bent up near the supports. This is especially recommended in members continuous over several supports. Additional diagonal tension reinforcement in the form of stirrups must be used near the supports. The vertical stirrups can be made from wire or packing case straps when available; they can also be improvised from split sections of bamboo bent into U-shape, and tied securely to both bottom longitudinal reinforcement and bent-up reinforcement. Spacing of the stirrups should not exceed 6 inches.

Anchorage and Splicing of Reinforcements

Dowels in the footings for column and wall reinforcement should be imbedded in the concrete to such a depth that the bond between bamboo and concrete will resist the allowable tensile force in the dowel. This imbedded depth is approximately 10 times the diameter of whole culms or 25 times the thickness of 3/4 inch wide splints. In many cases the footings will not be this deep; therefore, the dowels will have to be bent into an L-shape. These dowels should be either hooked around the footing reinforcement or tied securely to the reinforcement to insure complete anchorage. The dowels should extend above the footings and be cut so that not more than 30 percent of the splices will occur at the same height. All such splices should be overlapped at least 25 inches and be well tied.

Splicing reinforcement in any member should be overlapped at least 25 inches. Splices should never occur in highly stressed areas and in no case should more than 30 percent of the reinforcement be spliced in any one location.

In general, techniques used in conventional reinforced concrete construction need not he changed when bamboo is to be used for reinforcement.

Concrete Mix Proportions

The same mix designs can be used as would normally be used with steel reinforced concrete. Concrete slump should be as low as workability will allow. Excess water causes swelling of the bamboo. High early-strength cement is preferred to minimize cracks caused by swelling of bamboo when seasoned bamboo cannot be waterproofed.

Placement of bamboo

Bamboo reinforcement should not be placed less than 1-1/2 inches from the face of the concrete surface. When using whole culms, the top and bottom of the stems should be alternated in every row and the nodes or collars, should be staggered. This will insure a fairly uniform cross section of the bamboo throughout the length of the member, and the wedging effect obtained at the nodes will materially increase the bond between concrete and bamboo.

The clear spacing between bamboo rods or splints should not be less than the maximum size aggregate plus 1/4 inch. Reinforcement should be evenly spaced and lashed together on short sticks placed at right angles to the main reinforcement. When more than one layer is required, the layers should also be tied together. Ties should preferably be made with wire in important members. For secondary members, ties can be made with vegetation strips.

Bamboo must be securely tied down before placing the concrete. It should be fixed at regular intervals of 3 to 4 feet to prevent it from floating up in the concrete during placement and vibration. In flexural members continuous, one-half to two-thirds of the bottom longitudinal reinforcement should be bent up near the supports. This is especially recommended in members continuous over several supports. Additional diagonal tension reinforcement in the form of stirrups must be used near the supports. The vertical stirrups can be made from wire or packing case straps when available; they can also be improvised from split sections of bamboo bent into U-shape, and tied securely to both bottom longitudinal reinforcement and bent-up reinforcement. Spacing of the stirrups should not exceed 6 inches.

Anchorage and Splicing of Reinforcements

Dowels in the footings for column and wall reinforcement should be imbedded in the concrete to such a depth that the bond between bamboo and concrete will resist the allowable tensile force in the dowel. This imbedded depth is approximately 10 times the diameter of whole culms or 25 times the thickness of 3/4 inch wide splints. In many cases the footings will not be this deep; therefore, the dowels will have to be bent into an L-shape. These dowels should be either hooked around the footing reinforcement or tied securely to the reinforcement to insure complete anchorage. The dowels should extend above the footings and be cut so that not more than 30 percent of the splices will occur at the same height. All such splices should be overlapped at least 25 inches and be well tied.

Splicing reinforcement in any member should be overlapped at least 25 inches. Splices should never occur in highly stressed areas and in no case should more than 30 percent of the reinforcement be spliced in any one location.

When design handbooks are available for steel reinforced concrete, the equations and design procedures can be used to design bamboo reinforced concrete if the above mechanical properties are substituted for the reinforcement.

Due to the low modulus of elasticity of bamboo, flexural members will nearly always develop some cracking under normal service loads. If cracking cannot be tolerated, steel reinforced designs or designs based on unreinforced sections are required.

Experience has shown that split bamboo performs better than whole culms when used as reinforcing. Better bond develops between bamboo and concrete when the reinforcement is-split in addition to providing more compact reinforcement layers. Large-diameter culms split into 3/4-inch- wide splints are recommended.

For more details read

( Reference: BAMBOO REINFORCED CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION February 1966 U. S. NAVAL CIVIL ENGINEERING LABAORATORY  Port Hueneme, California  By Francis E. Brink and Paul J. Rush )

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