One of the most recognizable and ubiquitous features of Latin American construction is the simple corrugated roof, typically made out of sheet metal such as zinc or even asbestos. The readily available, inexpensive, and relatively durable nature of these materials has made them the go-to for construction in Central and South America, whether in commercial or residential settings, in high value properties or in low-income communities.
But despite the fact that asbestos, zinc, and plastic have proven sufficiently strong and plentiful, bamboo offers a solution that can be produced not only sustainably, but also locally and exponentially. With greater exposure and, more importantly, wider implementation, bamboo can easily grow to replace sheet metal in this vast market, saving money, conserving limited resources, and empowering local production economies.
CBRS panels will fit with your existing Zinc panels
Fits with existing roofs!
Corrugated bamboo roofing sheets (CBRS) fulfill the exact role that traditional roofing sheets do, but with a variety of notable improvements. In addition to the obvious and numerous environmental and safety advantages (especially over asbestos), bamboo sheets are more attractive while being easier to work with, lighter and cheaper, while also being much quieter in the rain and much cooler in the sun- something that any veteran of Latin America will quickly see the value in. Crucially, these sheets also share the same standardized measurements as existing roofing materials, allowing for extremely rapid replacement and integration.
Native Costa Rican Weaving Technique is used
The production of CBRS closely resembles that of the flat bamboo mats you may have seen before. Bamboo is first split into many very small slivers which are then woven together to form the substance of the sheet. After this, the sheets are soaked in a special adhesive resin that gives them form and integrity. A drying and draining period follows which can be aided with the use of specialized techniques and drying rooms. Once the sheet is fully dry, it can be fed into a pressing machine which combines extreme heat and pressure to permanently mold the bamboo sheet into its corrugated shape. Finally, the woven, treated, dried, and pressed sheet can be trimmed into its exact dimensions and used for construction. This process can be easily systematized and taught, without the need for massive investment into infrastructure and machinery.
Because of these clear advantages and the sheer size of the Latin American market, there is an enormous opportunity to begin spreading bamboo roofing throughout the region. As metal prices continue to rise world-wide, importing new zinc sheets is becoming prohibitively expensive, especially as existing zinc and even plastic sheets begin to deteriorate. The financial difference made by changing to bamboo is one that would be measured in millions of dollars, but the benefits extend far beyond the single bottom line.
Let’s make a difference!
A Zinc processing plant giving off polution
The social and environmental impact of bamboo roofing could be felt far and wide, farther than the monetary gain in construction alone. Bamboo isn’t more labor-intensive than the production of other construction materials, but because the labor can be performed in local rural communities, annual production of 500,000 square meters of CBRS can create up to 200 new jobs, spread across maintenance of bamboo plants, harvesting bamboo, and weaving the sheets themselves, but also in secondary fields such as logistics and marketing.
Because the barrier to entry in CBRS production and construction is comparatively low, these operations can be brought to low-income rural communities with a lack of education or other natural resources. Given the sustainable and replenishing nature of bamboo, this small-scale industry can empower entire families in these communities for generations. As with the production of any natural and renewable resource, this will also encourage and foster a habit of responsible care for the environment.
And if all the tangible benefits to human societies and behavior weren’t enough, bamboo is renowned for the benefits it has in soil replenishment, water regulation, and biome regeneration. Even more notable, however, is the carbon absorption that bamboo is famous for- a single bamboo plant, even in a commercial setting, can absorb over 20 tons of carbon in a single year.
Corrugated Bamboo Roofing Sheets stand head and shoulders above traditional materials in virtually every metric, whether considering business advantages or social benefit and environmental impact. As with any new way of doing things, inertia and vested interests provide substantial obstacles in implementing CBRS on a grand scale, but with the undeniable improvements so readily apparent, bamboo roofing will soon grow to be as ubiquitous as the red zinc roofs we see today.