The capabilities of an $8 stick of lumber and where it could be used in sustainable construction.

Cali Bamboo has introduced a line of engineered dimensional lumber that is made from 100% compressed bamboo.  The marketing points for this new product are a “stronger more durable wood that is affordable and green.”  Stronger and more durable?   Maybe, but it hasn’t undergone any formal testing for code regulations and is only sold for fence posts.  Affordable?  There are cheaper options then an 8 dollar 2x4 if you didn’t know.  And green?  Sure bamboo is green, but that is not the bottom line here.  It is manufactured in China using hydraulic presses and phenol-formaldehyde adhesive.  Basically, you pay 8 dollars for a 2x4 that has been injected with a toxic resin, pressed in a factory, and shipped halfway around the world.    

So with all these considerations taken into account, what is bamboo lumber good for?  I guess they pretty much nailed it with the idea to use it as a fence post, but there is no testing data to back up the durability claim.  Maybe it could be used for interior carpentry but what does it look like when it is beveled or chamfered.  Apparently it splinters easily when cut with the grain. It is extremely high density and wouldn’t sand well.  It also can’t be nailed.   Instead, it must be predrilled and screwed.  Cali Bamboo plans to sell bamboo decking and even framing lumber.  I can’t imagine someone pre drilling and screwing every connection in a stick-framed home.  The entire idea of bamboo lumber seems impractical. 

From a business standpoint, I guess their reasoning for producing bamboo lumber was to capitalize on the green fad that made bamboo so popular.  I can see its use being very selective in sustainable construction; only demanded by very specialized features that are architecturally desired. 

If a sustainable lumber is what you are looking for, consider FSC certified lumber that is locally harvested by responsible forestry practices.