In Costa Rica, where bamboo grows wild even in San José’s most developed neighborhoods, bamboo furniture and art are fairly common.
However, with the new boom of bamboo building, this giant member of the grass family is transitioning from home decoration ingredient to construction material.
Architects Esperanza Gallego and Gonzalo Bueno are the “bamboo team” esponsible for Costa Rica’s largest bamboo project: Timarai Bamboo Resort in Parrita, on the central Pacific coast.
Gallego speaks highly of the material, which has a host of benefits that could soon lead it to replace wood for construction.
According to the architect, bamboo not only gives structures a rustic, tropical feel, it is also earthquake-resistant, more affordable and more environmentally friendly than other materials.
“It completely dissipates the seismic load; bamboo can bend and move but it will never fall on top of you,” she said, explaining that while concrete can crumble because it remains static, bamboo dances through earthquakes.
She said the decision to use bamboo to build the 1,500-square-meter Timarai Bamboo Resort, which belongs to her husband, Xavier Escaler, resulted from Escaler’s request for an innovative and interesting project. They also wished to give Timarai, which is 80% complete and open to the public, a natural look.
“Bamboo is a natural material that mixes very well with the environment, without damaging it – there’s synergy. And it produces a very tropical, beach look,” Gallego said, adding that to top this off, bamboo can cost approximately 30% less than traditional building materials.
Like wood, bamboo requires some care, particularly on the exterior of buildings. Gallego recommended using a rag to rub a mixture of bee’s wax and linseed oil on bamboo every six months to a year to keep it in shape.
Before construction, buyers must make sure to ward off potential plagues by immunizing their bamboo. Bambú Tico, a bamboo provider company, offers this service. According to Natalia Retana, administrator of the 25-year-old family-run business, Bambú Tico uses nontoxic solutions to cure bamboo.
“The secret (to long-lasting bamboo) is good immunization. If it’s done, it is very durable – in fact it’s as durable as wood,” she told The Tico Times. “There are bamboo constructions more than 100 years old in China.”
Bambú Tico, based in Pérez Zeledón, in the country’s Southern Zone, delivers bamboo throughout the country, and has exported it to the United States and Spain. The company provided the material for construction of Timarai resort.
Retana said bamboo is experiencing a boom right now because people are seeking more alternatives and are attracted by its low cost. She said it is particularly en vogue in construction of coastal homes.
Also, bamboo building has a lighter impact on the environment because it can be more easily renewed than wood, she explained.
The one disadvantage Retana finds in bamboo is that, for better results in building, it must be left to dry after it is cut, which can require an average two months’ waiting time.
Gallego warned that, like all materials, bamboo has its own structural specifications and parameters for design, which architects must be careful to respect.
The bamboo team, which specializes in bamboo but will build any type of structure, has used bamboo to build floors, including that of a yoga school in Puriscal, southwest of San José. The architectural team also does interior decorating.
For more information about bamboo building, call Bambú Tico at 771-8569. For information on Timarai Bamboo Resort, call 770-8355 or visit www.timarai.net.