• Vol 10, No 4 (2019)
  • Architecture

Acceptability and Use of Innovative Bamboo Products for the Construction of Residential Buildings in Nigeria

John Ameh, Aliu Soyingbe, Olukayode Oyediran

Corresponding email: oameh@unilag.edu.ng


Cite this article as:
Ameh, J., Soyingbe, A., Oyediran, O., 2019. Acceptability and Use of Innovative Bamboo Products for the Construction of Residential Buildings in Nigeria. International Journal of Technology. Volume 10(4), pp. 648-656
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John Ameh Department of Building, University of Lagos, 100213 Nigeria
Aliu Soyingbe Department of Building, University of Lagos, 100213 Nigeria
Olukayode Oyediran Department of Quantity Surveying, University of Lagos, 100213 Nigeria
Email to Corresponding Author

Abstract
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The high cost and environmental and health hazards attributed to conventional building materials, coupled with the adverse effect of massive exploitation of forest resources for construction purposes, have necessitated the search for alternative construction materials that are eco-friendly, sustainable, economical and socially acceptable. This study aims to explore the acceptability and use of innovative bamboo products for residential building construction in Nigeria. One hundred and fifty-two survey questionnaires were distributed to built environment professionals within the Lagos region using the convenience sampling technique. The results show a likely disposition to the use of innovative bamboo products for building construction, except for roof beams and trusses, wall beams and columns, and composite roofing sheets. Major barriers to the acceptability and use of bamboo for construction include lack of knowledge about bamboo connections and detailing; the absence of governmental policy on bamboo as an alternative construction material; the absence of design standards for bamboo products; and poor public perception of the use of bamboo in building construction.  The value of this study is that it provides an excellent platform for further research on the optimization of bamboo for construction, which will boost economic activities, reduce capital flight for the importation of machinery and the constituents of conventional building materials, and enhance the country’s GDP.

Bamboo; Building materials; Eco-friendly; Nigeria; Sustainable material

Introduction

There are indications from global trends that the world is experiencing a housing crisis, but that this is more severe in developing countries. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS, 2012) and the World Bank (2016) agree that Nigeria has an estimated housing deficit of over 17 million units. It has been reported that Lagos, the commercial nerve center, and Abuja, the capital city, account for 15% and 10% respectively of the total housing deficit (Sanni, 2017). With the urban population growth rate at 4.39% (World Bank, 2016), housing for both rental and purchase will continue to be in high demand. Jagboro and Owoeye (2004) attribute around 60% of the overall cost of building construction to building materials; prices of these in Nigeria are unstable due to inflation and are rising annually (Oke & Akanni, 2012).

Modern construction mostly uses non-renewable and non-green materials such as cement and steel, which have consequences for the environment and ecosystem. Products made from non-green materials require a substantial amount of energy for processing and transportation, which contribute to the greenhouse effect. In addition, high levels of foreign exchange are required for the importation of heavy machinery and constituent materials for their production. The interiors of buildings made from non-green materials require additional ventilation, which is often provided artificially, thus exerting more pressure on the inefficient and inadequate electric power supply in developing economies such as Nigeria. An alternative conventional construction material that is eco-friendly, sustainable and economical is wood. However, the demand for wood and wood products continues to increase in proportion to population levels. The implication of increasing demand for wood as a forest resource is deforestation, as the rate of demand for such forest resource is higher than the rate of replenishment. It is common knowledge that trees take decades to mature, thus massive exploitation of forest resources for construction and other uses may lead to their depletion, with the attendant impact on sustainability and ultimately climate change. Bonsi (2009) observes that the survival of the wood industry requires a corresponding supply of adequate wood raw material. However, Ayres (2001) found that the primary resource base can no longer provide an adequate supply of wood to industry. Therefore, Upton and Attah (2003), Donkor et al. (2005), and Tomaselli (2007), advocate the adoption of lesser-used or plantation-grown species in order to stabilize the disequilibrium in supply.

The environmental and health hazards attributed to non-green conventional building materials, coupled with the adverse effect of massive exploitation of forest resource for construction purpose, have necessitated the search for alternative construction materials that are eco-friendly, sustainable, economical and socially acceptable (fashionable). Bamboo is one of the strongest and most versatile eco-friendly building materials in the world (Shah et al., 2012). Bamboos are giant grasses belonging to the family Gramineae, a sub-family of Bambusoideare (Effah et al., 2014). Available records indicate that there are between 1,200-1,500 species of bamboo found in 70 genera, of which Bambusa Vulgaris is the dominant species in Nigeria (Gyansah & Kwofie, 2011).

Several investigations into the use of bamboo as a suitable material for construction have been made (Mbuge, 2000; Awalluddin et al., 2017). It has been successfully used as structural columns and trusses in the Philippines (Richard et al., 2017), while a study by Sharma et al. (2017) established that laminated bamboo was comparable to conventional timber and timber- based products in terms of structural properties. Despite extensive research reports on the suitability of bamboo for construction, there is no policy on its use for construction in Nigeria. The lack of modern technology input into the processing of bamboo for housing accounts for its low acceptability and utilization as a building material in Nigeria. Because of the relative lack of exploitation of bamboo for construction in most African countries, in comparison to its use in China, India and Latin America countries, for example, Opoku et al. (2016) examined the barriers to the use of bamboo for construction in Ghana. The limitation of their study is that many of the respondents would have responded from the viewpoint of traditional uses of bamboo for construction. Innovative bamboo products (also called engineered bamboo) are revolutionary new products made from bamboo culms, with improved strength characteristics and durability (Sharma et al., 2015). They are used as floor tiles, wall partitions, ceilings and roofs.

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) (2011) observes that barriers exist to the mainstreaming of bamboo in construction. Some of these include policy support and integration with local construction materials; preparation of bamboo construction product standards and codes; and supply of bamboo on an industrial scale for construction purposes. These barriers are fundamental. They require analysis of the fundamental issues in the feasibility and acceptability of the adoption of innovative or engineered bamboo products in construction. This is important in the context of the reluctance to adopt certain innovative alternative construction products and processes in countries that are accustomed to either foreign and/or conventional construction materials. For these reasons, this study is aimed at exploring the acceptability and use of innovative bamboo products for residential building construction in a developing country, namely Nigeria, with a view to providing a benchmark stakeholder mindset that could drive both the technology and adoption of this promising alternative construction material.

The study therefore intends to achieve the above aim by examining the current use of bamboo for construction purposes in developing economies such as Nigeria; by examining the acceptability of bamboo products as an alternative to wood for construction; and by identifying the factors which affect its acceptability and use in building construction.  

Conclusion

The purpose of the study was to explore the acceptability and use of innovative products made from bamboo for building construction in Nigeria, as a precursor of further research on the optimization of bamboo for construction. Survey questionnaires were administered to professionals in the built environment in the Lagos region. The results show an average level of awareness of and experience in the application of bamboo as structural members, particularly for roof and wall construction. A major area of application of bamboo is as temporary supports for formwork and scaffoldings. The results further indicate that the use of bamboo for finishes is uncommon.

With regard to the acceptability of products made from bamboo, the results show a likely disposition to use bamboo plywood, bamboo fiber board, laminated bamboo for general use as a substitute for wood, bamboo board for wall partitions, and bamboo strips for both ceilings and flooring. On the other hand, the respondents indicated that they were unlikely to accept bamboo for use as roof beams and trusses, wall beams and columns or composite roofing sheets.

Lack of knowledge about bamboo connections and detailing; absence of government policy on bamboo as an alternative construction material; absence of design standards for bamboo products; poor public perception of the use of bamboo in building construction; and reluctance to specify bamboo by design professionals are the barriers to the acceptability and use of bamboo for construction.

Future research should focus on the optimization of bamboo products that professionals perceive will attract patronage from stakeholders in the building industry, as well as addressing issues that act as barriers to the acceptability of bamboo products for building construction.

The practical implications of optimizing bamboo for the construction of buildings are that it would boost economic activities by creating multiple streams of employment for bamboo farmers, and for other citizens through the bamboo product value chain, leading to increased earning capacity and improved welfare of economically weaker sections of society. It would also discourage the importation of wooden panels and floor components, thereby increasing the country’s GDP. In addition, it would contribute to a safe environment through carbon monoxide sequestration, and rehabilitation of degraded forests and other wasteland through bamboo plantation.

One limitation of this investigation is that it uses the convenience, rather than a probabilistic, sampling technique. Furthermore, the respondents were professionals in the built environment, rather than a widely-dispersed sample of building owners. Future studies should target all stakeholders in the building industry using a stratified or cluster sampling technique.

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