Bamboo has become a permanent timber, able to last as long as other timbers due to great treatment methods recently tested and used.
See below video with Elora Hardy (ibuku.com) designer of the award winning Green School and Green Village in Bali who introduces bamboo as an amazing permanent timber product so versatile and sustainable.
The exciting news is that the bamboo treatment methods used today by architects and construction companies are NATURAL and non toxic. In this article we share the types of treatment products we use as well as the various methods.
Note: The timing of harvest (season) and the age of the pole/culm is very important also. If you use young bamboo poles or cut when the grove is high sugar/starch/growth mode, you will attract mould and beetles such as the bora and powder beetle, which rapidly eat the bamboo from inside out. We will do an article on Harvest Methods soon.
We purchase 20kg bags or there are smaller boxes of the following: Borax, Boron (Actibor, Dissolvabor), Boric Acid. Our formula is 1.5cups of Borax and 1cup of Boric Acid to 4 Litres of water. Other bamboo specialists do different things.
Julianne Hartman has been a pioneer of bamboo building and craft in Australia and helped set up new industries in East Timor and other countries. Here is her input:
The positive of using Borax products is you can top up and keep using the solution again and again. It is also harmless to the soil and although there are differing views on its toxicity, we have research to prove that Borax products have been used for health purposes (1/8th teaspoon in 1 litre of water a day) as per an Australian Pharmacist. But dont quote us on this, nor apply this to yourself unless you do your own reasearch!
In 2014 the Bamboo Society of Australia invited Thierry Cayot from Bali to present his Building / Construction company’s treatment method – Freemite. We are now trialling it in Australia. Thierry’s business Asali, has been using this product for many years and has found it 100% successful. Freemite is an organic, non-toxic and plant-based treatment issued from years of research and a new eco-friendly termite treatment and pest control. Freemite is a bio fine emulsion termite exterminator designed for bamboo, wood fibers, rattan, houses and gardens. Freemite combines the effects of a borax, neem, chilli and camphor and 12 other plant extracts. The benefits of this product is that treatment can occur at cold/normal temperature within 24 hours (vs 1-2 weeks with Borax products if cold). It does need to be discarded after 1 month (each batch) and can be discarded in nature, reducing pest/insect problems. See more information here: FREEMITE FACEBOOK PAGE
At bellobamboo.com we recommend these methods and use the first 3, as we are small scale and like the convenience. See the last 2 for large scale.
We are very lucky to have bamboo available every day and an array of varieties to choose from. If you are cutting bamboo in small amounts, this method is very easy and effective. Cut the bamboo pole and within 2-4 hours, place in a bucket with some leaves still on the pole. For small to medium size bamboo you can leave in the bucket for 1 week, and large bamboo you can cut sections and leave in the bucket for 2 weeks. Place the bamboo against a tree with some sun and the treatment solution will be sucked up by the bamboo pole through its arteries which will remain open if you do this within 2-4 hours of harvesting. You may need to top up the solution if the pole has sucked it all up so check regularly. If the bucket is rained on, just top up some more solution.
Lean the poles on a strong tree with heavy foliage and you can even dry and store your poles under the same tree once you take out of the bucket. We will do an article on other stages soon : Harvest Times/Age of Pole, Treatment, Sun Drying and Storage. The great thing about this method is you can re-use the solution and keep topping up without having to dispose of the product. We use this bucket method with the Bora product mix:
Thanks to Kaye from byronbamboo.com.au and Julianne Hartman for sharing their % and methods with us (see above).
This is a great, simple way to use treatment anytime (rather than within 2-4 hours) and is easy for small scale. We visited the East Bali Poverty Project, who use a lot of bamboo for their buildings and have a great forest re-planted for their village needs. They had tried Vertical Diffusion method and the Dipping in the Vat method (see below) yet they found this Pour in Bucket method easier for one off poles. The nodes are pierced with a re-bar or rio-bar from top leaving 2 nodes at the bottom unpierced. The liquid is poured in to the top of the pole and left for 1-2 weeks depending on size. The solution is ‘topped up’ from time to time by pumping or using a vessel to get the liquid up to the top and into the pole again.
We like to use this method with the Freemite product which can be re-used with daily batches of dried bamboo for up to one month.
If you are treating bamboo regularly and really want to make sure the treatment goes right into each node of the bamboo, the Boucherie method is a tried and tested approach adopted by many countries. Here is a great, no energy way to do this as per Bonza Bamboo’s new set up, NSW, Australia. See their facebook post BONZA BAMBOO
Vertical Soak Diffusion (VSD)
The Environmental Bamboo Foundation, founded by Linda Garland who pioneered better treatment methods in Bali, has a great article on the VSD method, see LINK and brochure here. It also has information on Managing, Harvesting and creating a Bamboo Treatment Centre. The image / photo here is the East Bali Poverty Project who use the shelter more for storage now. You need to see if you are prepared to create such a tall structure especially if doing tall bamboo poles.
For Larger Scale methods:
Dipping bamboo for a period of time in some type of watertight trough is an effective method for large scale bamboo treatment.
We visited Thailand and CLC who do some beautifully designed large and small scale buildings made with bamboo and earth. They use large concrete troughs and dip the bamboo poles in this for at least 1 week (Bora method). See below for a great video showing their use of bamboo as a timber, combined with earth methods and see their treatment plant and building sites.
We regularly take people on tour to the Bamboo Factory in Bali, who provide the bamboo timber and materials for the famous Green School, Bali and Green Village, Bali. Their method is to have a metal trough and heat the solution to boiling point for 24 hours instead of the Bora treatment needing 1-2 weeks in cold solution.
Contact us if you wish to find out more about our Trial of Freemite this year.
Freemite founder, Thierry Cayot gave a workshop at Byron Bay Bamboo Nursery and shared tips on how to set up a treatment plant and what worked for them such as having 2 troughs and being able to put partitions in to make the batch of poles shorter. Here are 3 photos of their set up.
Asali Bali also run our practical Build workshop component in Bali at their current construction site and factory. We also tour other venues such as the Green School, Green Village Bali in this 4 day program. See their WEBSITE LINK here for amazing building examples. See brochure here for BALI BUILD.
Watch this video to see why Bamboo is one of the finest, long lasting, strong and beautiful timbers being used in modern architecture and building.
CLC – beautiful earth and bamboo buildings (see the factory and building sites too):
The Bamboo Society of Australia
In 2015 The Bamboo Society of Australia held a Treatment workshop at Byron Bay Bamboo, NSW Australia. Freemite founder, Thierry Cayot, travelled from Bali to share the Freemite method and demonstrate it. In the afternoon we had an expert panel sharing best methods of treatment. As a Board Member of the Bamboo Society of Australia, Kirsten Daly, founder of The Bello Bamboo Company participated. See photo below.