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How Bamboo Building Can Cool the Climate
By Kieran Cooke
There could be a way of countering one key aspect of the climate emergency by making much greater use of a widely-available plant: bamboo building.
Bamboo is already one of the most widely-used and versatile natural materials on the planet; foods, medicines and cooking utensils, musical instruments, clothes and furniture are made from it. It's used as well for scaffolding, floor coverings, bicycle frames, promoting fertility in cattle — and for brewing beer.
Now researchers say increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.
A study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined bamboo's structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.
It's estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30 percent and 40 percent of the country's climate-changing carbon emissions.
This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials — mainly steel and cement — and the energy required to heat and cool buildings.
"Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings", says the study.
"Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change."
Using advanced scanning thermal microscopy, researchers looked at heat flows across bamboo cell walls and examined the plant's vascular tissue, which transports fluid and nutrients within it.
The resulting images revealed an intricate fiber structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls: it was found that the thicker walls generate the best thermal conductivity and are also responsible for bamboo's strength and stiffness.
"Nature is an amazing architect", says Darshil Shah of the department of architecture at Cambridge, who led the study. "Bamboo is structured in a really clever way. It grows by one millimetre every 90 seconds, making it one of the fastest-growing plant materials."
The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.
The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials as at present, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.
"People may worry about the fire safety of bamboo buildings", says Shah. "To address this properly we have to understand the thermal properties of the building material.
"Through our work we can see that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately."
Reposted with permission from Climate News Network.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Genna Reed
The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.
This decision is based on three criteria:
- PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
- PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
- regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
By Kieran Cooke
Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.
Finance ministers from the 20 largest economies agreed to add a scant mention of the climate crisis in its final communiqué in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but they stopped short of calling it a major economic risk, as Reuters reported. It was the first time the G20 has mentioned the climate crisis in its final communiqué since Donald Trump became president in 2017.