Bamboo Plywood in Tropics and Architects/Consultants available these days?


we are start to build ~ 10 houses on a tropical island in Thailand that are:


Initially, as a pilot project to find the best materials/technology; then as a case study to provide better alternatives in the whole region.

Wikihouse technology ticks all 3 boxes except for the fact that plywood

  • usually uses toxic glue
  • does poorly in humid and rainy climates; even sealing it would be very risky from my understanding

The next logical step would be to replace plywood with a material that works better.

Bamboo plywood is traditionally not sustainable in the west (need to travel around the globe) and expensive (due to travel and low supply?).

We are considering manufacturing it ourselves into plywood.

The big question is it can be used in the same way as normal plywood?

Additionally I wonder if anyone who is manufactured parts or build a whole house is available for a consulting call to help me brainstorm of what can be done in this region? Happy to pay for your time :slight_smile:


Hi Patrick,
I am not really an expert about bamboo, but to my knowledge the challenge is within the fabrication process. The shape of the canes and its chemical composition make the fabrication process quite difficult. As a result there is quite a significant percentage of material waste. Please find the paper attached with some references.

The big question is it can be used in the same way as normal plywood?

I think it depends on a lot of variables, for example strength, stiffness, durability to name a few. I am not 100% sure how the building code works in Thailand, but generally materials need to be certified to a certain standard to be used in construction. That means, among the other factors, having a certification on the mechanical properties.

Perhaps my suggestion would be to do a research with the most common timber products manufactured in Thailand, and see if any of those might suit your needs? Not sure if it was helpful but best of luck for your project!

1-s2.0-S1359836822001603-main_compressed.pdf (3.3 MB)

Thanks a lot, Gabriele!

Your input is super helpful and the paper is an exceptional resource :slight_smile:

Yes, timber is the logical step. The more I research (and talk to people who build with timber), the more I realize it’s not a long-term solution. The termites and the sea breeze here are relentless. Seems most people have changed from timers to concrete for its durability and maintenance needs in this climate.

On the bright side building codes are less strict here and we would be able to do with “any” plywood with a few potential workarounds.

For the CNC machines that do the cutting… Would it be a difference for them if they were cutting bamboo or normal plywood?

Hi Patrick,
maybe someone who has already tried could give you better advice, but I think there won’t be major differences. To my understanding, as long as the density of the material is similar, then the process should be pretty much the same :slight_smile:

Hey Patrick, other Patrick here - I have some experience fabricating with bamboo plywood for campervans. In my area, it is expensive and wouldn’t be considered sustainable here in the Western US. It is popular in our industry, so we offer it.

The only contribution I have that is relevant to your question is that bamboo plywood is quite easy to CNC, and some types can be a good substitute for a structural type plywood - especially for interior paneling (which is what we use it for). You’ve probably already learned that there are different way to lay it up (edge grain, cross ply, etc) that might have different or better properties for your use. I also know bamboo is naturally resistant to mold and insects, but the adhesive isn’t always, so it is an important factor when choosing a plywood! Hope some of that helps!

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Thanks again, Garbiele :slight_smile:

And big thanks Patrick as well! Hearing firsthand from you that bamboo plywood is easy to CNC is a huge help!

That is a good point to watch out for the adhesive. It seems most of them are toxic/not-sustainable.

Agree that in most of the world, it is not sustainable and also expensive.

Here in Thailand bamboo is more sustainable and cheaper than wood.

We’ll now “just” need to find a a way to produce it into plywood to keep the prices low and not using toxic adhesives… If we manage to do so we should have a great solution for the tropics :slight_smile:

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