Quantcast

North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 3, 2013, 6:30 am

Startup bets on bamboo panel construction

By

Print Friendly Print Friendly    

Share this item

    WINDSOR — As construction with factory-built wood and light-gauge steel panels gains popularity for reducing labor costs, project timetables and waste, a 5-year-old company is betting demand will grow like a weed for studless, highly strong and energy-efficient walls made of bamboo panels.

    Bamcore test-built a 2,000-square-foot home in Northern California from bamboo panels.

    After five years in largely bootstrapped development, Bamcore, LLC, this summer plans to start producing panels from a 13,000-square-foot pilot plant coming online in the former Standard Structures plant in Windsor. The goal is to be making for two or three single-family homes a month by year-end. The company has lease options to scale up production to occupy 48,000 square feet of the building, if demand warrants.

    “We’re trying to take a sustainable, renewable resource and bring it to Western-style building products,” said founder and co-managing member William McDonald, whose background includes 30 years in framing and truss-building.

    Bamcore last year was granted a patent for the process that turns bamboo poles — called culms — into load-bearing panelboard. It looks like conventional plywood from a distance, largely because the panel has a veneer of Douglas fir to allow for easy application of paint and texture without the need for gypsum wallboard. The process cuts and flattens the culms then laminates them together with formaldehyde-free glue.

    Bamboo culms are on a truck bound for a Bamcore plant.

    The result is a panel said to have similar load-bearing strength to steel yet can flex side to side much farther than plywood without breaking. Bamcore said it is keeping its product testing results close to the vest for now for competitive reasons, but it said it has had them tested through materials labs at Washington State University and Boston University as well as through Kleinfelder’s former Santa Rosa lab.

    Those strength characteristics are said to allow Bamcore panels to be simply precut in the factory for doors and windows and not need headers. From a previous, smaller research-and-development factory in Rohnert Park, Bamcore test-constructed a 2,000-square-foot house in Northern California in a few days.

    Bamcore uses undisclosed bamboo species that in three months grow 90 feet high and to a diameter of several inches. Bamboo grow in three-culm groups, with each culm maturing in three years. That allows one culm to be harvested a year.

    Early in development, bamboo was purchased from China, but challenges in avoiding clear-cutting practices there prompted Bamcore to shift purchasing to Central America. The company has acquired property there and created a production bamboo forest, the first harvest from which is set to arrive in Windsor.

    The ultimate goal is plant commercial bamboo forests locally for use in the plant and for sale to local builders, according to Bamcore managers Mr. McDonald and Gary Hoenig, a Santa Rosa intellectual-property attorney. University of California, Davis, plant scientists reportedly are studying commercially viable bamboo species that would work in various U.S. climates.

    Bamboo is said to sequester six times the greenhouse gases as Douglas fir.

    Bamcore demo home

    Bamcore also received a patent and a system of floor, ceiling and panel spline brackets to form studless walls from two panels separated by a gap for insulation and utilities. The ability to choose the distance between the panels allows for the addition of 12-inch or greater gaps found in high-end homes without the use of more expensive double-wall construction, Mr. McDonald noted.

    Panelized construction is gaining popularity because it allows construction year-round with factory efficiencies and better control of waste. Panels delivered by truck, and often moved into position with the help of a crane or hoist, can be screwed or nailed in place by a smaller crew in less time than on-site stud-by-stud construction.

    A technology that competes with Bamcore wall panels are generally called structural insulated panels, or SIPs. Some custom homes have been built locally with SIPs, which arrive with insulation already installed in the wall panels.

    The North Bay has become home to a number of panelized and modular construction innovators. HybridCore of Santa Rosa designs modular rooms from conventional materials. Blu Homes’ Vallejo plant makes light-gauge steel-framed homes that erect quickly via hinged wall panels. Healthy Buildings Technology Group of Napa has developed factory-built steel-stud panels that ship with windows and utilities.

    Copyright © 1988–2014 North Bay Business Journal
    View the policy for linking to website content.

    Print Friendly Print Friendly    

    Comments

    4 Comments

    1. June 4, 2013, 5:54 pm

      by David Merrick

      The taller Guadua species of bamboo are being used for plantations of 100,000 hectares and will be ready in about 7 years. Guadua is not only 90 feet tall but also a foot or more in diameter. Plantations are starting up in South America, Africa and India.

      Chinese bamboo is a much larger resource but is of a softer fiber, however stronger than any of our forest products.

      I suspect any chipper for making plywood will work with bamboo. there are two proven adhesives already available for bamboo.

      Bamboo is as strong as the mild steel used in concrete reinforcement and has been proven to be usable as a concrete reinforcement. A better solution for salty environments. The probably reason that these panels are flexible are because of the styrofoam cores.


    2. June 5, 2013, 10:10 am

      by Jeff Quackenbush, Business Journal Staff Reporter

      Bamcore’s panels are to be different from structural insulated panels, or SIPs, which often sandwich a rigid foam between panels of oriented strandboard, or OSB, or plywood. There is no foam core in the Bamcore design.


    3. June 11, 2013, 3:22 pm

      by Peter Pick

      I have tried to get their tel. # no luck! HOw can a business run without a tel. #?


    4. September 19, 2013, 9:07 am

      by Jill McClaran

      Bamcore’s number is 707-332-6125.


    Submit Your Comments

    Required

    Required, will not be published

    Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments and Letters Policy. To share this item by email or social media, use the links above.

    Do not use this form to contact people, companies or organizations mentioned in this story. Contact them directly. Private messages left here will be deleted.