Bengaluru Man Replaces Plastic, Cement In Buildings With Sturdy Bamboo Construction
It was a conference that made Parameswaran Krishna Iyer realise his calling in life — to be an advocate of bamboo in India. In 1998, a young Parameswaran was the caretaker of an apartment in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, drawing a meagre salary.
“I searched online on Yahoo for bamboo products and realised that there was a lot of demand, but no supply for bamboo products. That was when I decided to seriously explore the business possibilities in bamboo,” he says. However, funding wasn’t easy and in a few years, Parameswaran had moved to stock markets where he did all kinds of odd jobs till he shifted to Bengaluru and became a relationship manager at a broking firm.
“I kept my dream alive all the while, but it was only in 2009 that I finally found investors in my stock market colleagues. My mentor was Susanth CS, Head of Bamboo Initiative at the National Institute of Design (NID). Inspired by him and another NID professor, I brought Stephen to Bengaluru, rented a small space for the office, set up a small unit made of bamboo and registered the name Bamboopecker,” says the 42-year-old.
Before long they were flooded with orders, initially only for furniture, interior decor items and artefacts and later for construction projects—resorts, pavilions, farmhouses and more–for private and government entities pan India as well.
n 2015, they built their own factory in Bengaluru, using only bamboo, mud and other traditional building materials, which later came to be used for demonstration. “People ask me about the profits and the commercial aspects of construction using bamboo. But even today, we are unable to cater to the huge number of orders, all without spending a penny on marketing or ads. I would consider the profits as a bonus or a by-product,” he says, adding that his profit margins of up to 30% are reinvested.
Bamboo, he says, is the most underutilised of natural building materials though it grows abundantly in India. Though it needs to be properly treated, for which Bamboopecker uses Boric Borax (Boron) solution, a non-toxic mild salt to neutralise sugar components and avoid pests.
“The tensile strength of bamboo is the same as that of mild steel owing to its fibrous nature, which is why it’s called vegetable steel. The key lies in harvesting the poles at the right time and employing the correct treatment methods. It also depends on planting the right species at the right places to optimise their growth. Once treated, bamboo will stay intact for 20 years or more,” he says.
He cites an instance where they were approached to replace the bamboo poles of a palanquin at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, only to find that the existing one had been in use for the past 150 years.
For the same reason, bamboo—the cheaper alternative—can replace steel in pillars, beams, ceilings and rafters, especially in construction in ecologically sensitive areas. “Bamboo construction suits earthquake-prone areas as the poles neither break like concrete nor bend like metal. They retract to the original shape after the impact. I have also often explored the possibility of low-cost housing projects with bamboo for flood-prone areas, since the entire house will float in the event of a natural calamity, causing minimum damage, if tethered properly,” he says.