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The Study of Design and Structural Potential of Bamboo Practical Joints and Frame Truss System

Pilot Project of Kashiihama House for All



1.1 Background
The use of bamboo in architecture has recently regained new
value because of sustainability. Bamboo, as a natural, versatile,
and renewable, is generally regarded as sustainable material.
There is potential that bamboo can be used more extensively in
all parts of a building, as architectural and structural elements.
One of the most critical issues of bamboo being used in a
building structural system is durability. Currently there is no
building standards or regulations regarding its performance and
maintenance. Bamboo is relatively vulnerable to insect and
fungus attack. More importantly, it has a tendency to crack easily
around the joint/connection parts. In most cases, bamboo may
be more suitable for temporary structure, rather than
permanent structure. In term of bamboo structural design, the
joint systems are the most significant aspects, as they have a
direct impact on building appearance and construction
techniques. In fact, the weaknesses of bamboo structure are
their joint systems and their inherent insufficient material
strength. In other words, if the joint system does not work
properly, the overall structure would have to be demolished
earlier than its expected lifespan. Kashiihama House for All
Project is a pilot project in Kyushu University, in which a
temporary architecture is constructed for the purpose of
investigating the Mousou bamboo engineered joints and frame
truss system. To set up the project Kashiihama House for All,
the researchers faced many specific problems that were similar
to the real constructions: such as budget, construction period,
self-construction, detachable structure, laws & regulations,
limited area and transportation. The research project intended to
address these problems, especially the safety concern.
The research investigated the bamboo architectural design
and construction possibilities, by utilizing the inherent structural
property of Mousou bamboo, application of effective practical
connections, and application of frame truss system. The selected
joints came from fundamental technologies commonly used in
modern bamboo architecture. Bolted Joint and MortarInjection can be used along with bolted joint, to fix a bolt inside
bamboo, preventing it from crushing against perpendicular force.
The advantages from using both of these joints include
convenience, effectiveness, workability, etc. If bolted joint is
used along with mortar injection, the bamboo structure would
become permanently fixed and undetachable. In this case, the
requirement of the Kashiihama House for All or KHFA project
program would not be met, and transportation would become an
issue. The commonly-used post-tension construction connection,
Sheath Steel Tube, would be inserted through the drilled hole
to prevent mortar concrete from solidifying the joint.
1.2 Objectives
There are four objectives of this research. 1) A bamboo
structural and joint system was investigated. 2) The overall
structural design was improved through material basic strength
experiment, joints and frame experiments. 3) Potential lightweighted detachable building components were examined. 4) A
pilot project Kashiihama House for All was constructed with all
the construction term issues resolved.
1.3 Research Methodologies

Initially, this research addressed the construction issues in

Kashiihama House for All project. Because of its durable
strength and low cost, Mousou bamboo (Phyllostachys
pubescene) was used as the structural material. All bamboo used
in this research were harvested at the Ito Campus, Kyushu
University. To complement the inherent properties of bamboo, a
specific structural system for bamboo was developed, during the
design solution and development stage, followed by the
experiments and construction. The overall research methodology
is shown in Fig.1.

Fig.1 Project Processes for Research Framework

2. Bamboo Joint Connections

2.1 General Information

Traditional bamboo joinery techniques, using ropes or ties
with buckets, can be simply constructed by common people, but
it is inadequate from structural point of view. It also reduces joint
strength capability between bamboo culms. According to
Widyowijatnoko (2012), modern building construction is
categorized based on joinery techniques. Bolted joints with or
without concrete-mortar infill are categorized as Engineered
Conventional Bamboo Constructions. They are based on the
bamboo characteristics by employing modern tool electric drill
machines, and they are commonly applied in modern
architecture and practical for self-construct. They offer many
advantages, depending on the number of joint points filled by
mortar. However, the structure would become relatively heavy
for overall building and material itself. Such construction also
increases the on-site construction work, to fill all the joints with
mortar and put the bolt. Consequently, in the Kashiihama House
for All project, the mortar techniques were only applied
selectively at certain joint points, to make a sufficiently effective
rigid structure.

Fig.2 Engineered Conventional Bamboo Construction often used

2.2 Joint Connections and Structural Systems Consideration

Construction process and safety were significant for KHFA
project because it was self-constructed. Various bamboo
effective joints were used but some of them required specific
tools and skills of expert craftsmen. Therefore, the design and
construction process was aimed to be simple and effective.
Moreover, transforming bamboo shape for connections was not
recommended for this project, as it usually required specific tools
and craftsmanship. As a result, the most practical, effective,
appropriate for amateur builders was the bamboo joinery system,
which perform full of bamboo culm for construction.


3. Bamboo Structural Frame System Proposal

4.1.3 Material Basic Strength Tests Results

The compression test of bamboo showed that its average
compression strength was 80 N/mm , and tensile strength was
180-200 N/mm . The results revealed that bamboo had an
inherent high tensile strength in parallel direction, in comparison
to compression. However, the results from each specimen were
varied even if they were taken from the same bamboo piece. In
fact, the mechanical property of bamboo varies according to its
age, species, location, or the specific portion of bamboo used.

3.2 Weakest Joint Points at KHFA Structural Frame Truss

The weakest joint points are illustrated in Fig.3. It is
necessary to fill concrete-mortar at these points, and joint type
would be tested.

4.2 Bamboo Joint System: Experiments

The significant point in bolted joint connecting bamboo was
the tensile force from bolt, applied towards the end of the
bamboo joint, resulting in shear. (Janssen, 2000). Thus, to
examine the possibility of the construction joints, joint tests were
conducted to investigate the critical load impact, durability of
bamboo, and bolted joint (with/without concrete-mortar). A
Sheath Steel Tube of 18-19 mm (inner size of 16 mm) was
used to put through the drilled hole. A 16 mm Steel Bolt(M16)
was used to connect bamboo altogether. The purpose is to
enable the joint to be detachable from the concrete-mortar infill.
Concrete-mortar was infilled into the bamboo after sheath
steel tube was inserted. Plugging plasticine clay was then applied
around the drilled holes to prevent mortar leakage.

3.1 Frame Truss System Proposal for KHFA

The structural design principle for bamboo is to use it for
tension and compression. Nevertheless, from joints concern and
project limitations, the structural system was limited to the twodimensional frame behavior. Thus, achieving with a triangular
pattern or trusses system would provide stability by making the
entire structure more rigid. Further, it would keep the bamboo
pole from buckling, bending and shear.

Weakest Point
Requiring CFB and
Joint Test

Weak Point
Requiring CFB and
Joint Test

Neutral Point
Not Require CFB but
Requiring Joint Test

Fig.3 Frame Proposal and Critical Weakness Point Probability

4. Experiments

The objective is to study the strength of specific bamboo

joints and structural behaviors in Kashiihama House for All
project. The experiments were divided in 3 sections: 4.1)Bamboo
Material Strength 4.2)Joints and 4.3)Full-scale prototype frame.

4.1 Bamboo Material: Experiments

To understand the basic mechanical properties of bamboo

and the failure characteristics when the applied force is larger
than what it can endure.
4.1.1 Compression Test (Parallel to the Fibers)
The bamboo specimens were cut in 40 mm length All test
pieces were tested by 50 kN loading machine.

1. Drilling 19mm of the

hole on bamboo.
2. Removing the diaphragm
inside the bamboo. And
inserting the 18-19mm of
the sheath steel tube through
the drilled hole.
3. Pasting plasticine clay
around the drilled hole. And
putting concrete-mortar into
the bamboo.
4. After concrete-mortar
setting, removing plasticine
clay, and inserting 16mm
steel bolt through sheath steel
tube, assembling members,
and tightening with steel
washers and nuts.

Fig.6 Concrete-mortar infill the bamboo process

The experiments were divided in 2 groups; Joint in Parallel

and Perpendicular Direction, separated in two types: Joint With
Nothing Infill Bamboo(NFB) and Joint With Concrete-mortar
Infill Bamboo(CFB) for tolerance comparison. The results were
recorded from testing each type of connection at least 3 times.
This research aimed to obtain allowable strength possibility from
experiments instead of finding maximum load. Since bamboo is
raw material, which is elastic-like, the tolerance level of
displacement was not supposed be excess than 15 mm. This
number is acceptable for testing bamboo as structural material.
4.2.1 Group 1Bamboo Bolted Joint in Parallel Direction


Fig.4 Compressive Stress Loading Effects and Setup Material Tests

4.1.2 Tension Test (Parallel to the Fibers)

The bamboo specimens were cut in the dog bone-shape.
All test pieces were tested by 10 kN loading machine.


Fig.7 Group 1 Bamboo joint in parallel direction.

Two bamboos were placed overlapped in parallel direction,

and connected altogether by 16mm of steel bolt set. Both were
gripped by U-shape steel plate, and tightened by 12mm of steel
bolt sets as shown in Fig.7. The purpose was to investigate the
impact of bolted joint on bamboo connected in parallel direction.
Fig.5 Tensile Stress Loading Effects and Setup Material Tests


The Tensile load was applied on the

loading machine from both sides, upper
and lower head. The machine was able to
produce the maximum load of 200 kN. 2
displacement transducers were placed at
the steel strap, which were attached on
the U-shape steel plate, to record the
displacement and rotation of specimen.
The specimen was lopsidedly set up on
load machine due to the machine
limitation, but it did not influence the
Fig.8 Experiment set up for joint in Group 1 Tensile Load Test

The experiments demonstrated that all typical failure in NFB

and CFB were similar, mainly at the bamboo itself. Failure of NFB
occurred earlier than that of CFB. Fig.9 showed the longitudinal
crack from the joint point to the end of culm. The crack was
particularly noticeable since bamboos moved vertically from the
joint point. Washers were then slipped out, and drilled hole
could be seen. There was no damage on bolt and sheath steel
tube unless it was angular displaced. Furthermore, the concretemortar in CFB case showed different kind of results. Some of
them did not have any damage, some were lightly cracked, and
some were broken in 2 pieces but it did not slip out.

In this experiment, 3 bamboos were connected altogether.

One was orientated in vertical direction between another two
bamboos, which were orientated in horizontal direction. The
purpose was to investigate the impact of bolted joint on bamboo
in perpendicular direction.
The post-failures joint in NFB occurred on both of horizontal
bamboos, which were cracked in parallel. The friction from
washers caused indented trace on bamboo. Meanwhile, the CFB
case initially occurred on bolt. It was severely curved and bended
upward but was not torn apart. The second damage occurred on
vertical bamboo around the hole of bolted joint. The result was a
longitudinal crack on bamboo, but only few damages occurred
on the horizontal bamboos except for slight longitudinal crack,
and nothing happened on perpendicular to grain. The results of
concrete-mortar inside bamboos were the same as Group 1.
Sheath steel tube had less damage than expected.



0.715 kN

1.66 kN

3.70 kN

Fig.9 Comparison of Typical Failures of Group 1 Joint NFB and CFB Type

The average of tolerance strength level of this joint group

could be assumed that 1.66 kN for NFB, and 3.70 kN for CFB.
4.2.2 Group 2Bamboo Bolted Joint in Perpendicular Direction

Fig.12 Comparison of Typical Failures of Group 1 Joint NFB and CFB Type

The average of tolerance strength level of this joint group

could be assumed that 0.715 kN for NFB, and 2.42 kN for CFB.
4.2.3 Results
The experiment demonstrated that using bamboo bolted
joint with concrete-mortar infill was very effective.
Such joint could make the bolts to endure the load capacity, and
made bamboo more rigid, and acted as bonding to tightly
attached bamboo and fastener altogether. However, bolted joint
in Group 2 was weaker than Group 1. Steel bolt could not endure
the compression load. Although, sheath steel tube was not
effective on strength, it could be the alternative method to apply
for detachable system.

4.3 Bamboo Structural Frame: Experiments

Fig.10 Group 2 Bamboo joint in perpendicular direction.

The compression load

was applied on the
loading machine, which
was the same as that in
Group 1. Putting the load
on the vertical bamboo.
bamboos were placed on
blocks. Two displacement
transducers were placed
under the movable plate.
Fig.11 Experiment set up for joint in Group 2 Compression Load Test

2.42 kN

This experiment conducted the pulling test in Vertical and

Lateral Direction. The purpose was to analyze the potential
strength, and impact of joint on overall bamboo frame for
building structures. The experiment also investigated different
structural behavior when each load was activated on the frame.
4.3.1 Experimental Setup
The prototype frame was constructed with concrete-mortar
infill at the selective joint points. The frame was laid down on
ground, and its bottom part was fastened by steel pipes. The
load was applied by the use of a manual winch anchored to an
external reaction frame. The maximum load could increase up to
350 - 400 kg. The strength has to meet the load to be carried
with sufficient safety and the displacements were recorded.
4.3.2 Vertical Load Test Performance and Investigation

To investigate the dead load effect from the rooftop, the

vertical load was applied as shown in Fig.13. However, this
project was decided to use fabric membrane for covering the
whole structure, thus the load application number was
considered to be acceptable and adequate for such light-weight
structure. Most importantly, the post-failure did not occur on the
prototype frame.

5. The Processes of KHFA Project

5.1 Pre-Construction

Vertical Test Setup

(1) Frame Assembling - To position drilled holes.
(2) Frame Disassembling To prepare concrete-mortar infill process. Drilling
5mm of the hole on bamboo to infill mortar.
(3) Transporting After all concrete-mortar was setup itself. They were all ready
to be carried to the site.
Fig.15 Pre-Construction Processes

5.2 On-Site Construction

All consist of 8 bamboo culms/frame connected by bolted
joint with and without CFB system. All included was 9 frames for
whole building. The building could be separated in 3 units, which
comprised 3 frames/unit, connect each unit by bamboo beam.

The vertical
load application
was designated
to be stopped at
1725.97 N (~176
kg), at the
21.8 mm.

Load: 1725.97 N
at 21.80 mm

Fig.13 Vertical Test Setup and Load Application

4.3.3 Lateral Load Test Performance and Investigation

To investigate the lateral force such as wind load resistance,
the lateral load was applied as shown in Fig.14. The load
application number for one frame to be acceptable and
adequate for this structure was considered at 1.1 kN (100 kg).
Lateral Test Setup
Damage Points

(1) Frame Assembling and Setup Put the frames on bricks. Setup in parallel.
(2) Floor Installation Two plane of wooden floor were set on bamboo frame.
(3) Wall Installation Brick dry process system was used for wall component.
(4) Covering Installation Installing bamboo lintels for supporting fabric
membrane under the bamboo frames. Attaching membrane by plastic ropes.


Load: 3189.96 N
at 164.80 mm

Fig.16 On-Site Construction Processes

6. Conclusions and Suggestions


The lateral load application was applied and

stopped because of out of load at 3189.96 N
(~325 kg) at the displacement 164.8 mm. The
damages were found as (1) and (2)
Fig.14 Lateral Test Setup and Load Application

The slight parallel crack occurred around the holes with long
bolted joint. The bolt length might cause effect on bamboo but
they were not considered to be severe problems.
4.3.4 Results and Conclusions of Frame Experiment
The frame prototype behavior was relatively rigid at the joint,
especially infill with concrete-mortar as expected. There is no
structural failure occurred after finishing the frame tests process.
4.4 Conclusion
The results from material basic strength test were still
preliminary, and could not clearly identify the exact strength of
bamboo material itself. However, the results from specific joints
and frame experiments showed the potential of bamboo as
structural material. It could confirm that this structural system
was effectively rigid and firmly safe for temporary building.

Using bamboo as structural material for KHFA project by

utilizing bolted with/without concrete mortar infill provide
strength rigidity. Meanwhile sheath steel tube can improve
detachability. This system does not require for shape
deformation of bamboo that can provide workability for
unskilled labors. Further, the frame truss system is certainly
appropriate for bamboo as structural material since it effectively
prevent bamboo from bending and buckling in the middle of the
culm. Nevertheless, this system has not been improved in term
of force resistance in perpendicular direction to the frame (such
as wind blowing against the end of the building). The two
dimensional frame trusses only can take force in their own plane.
The solutions possibility basically is adding extra bracing between
trusses. Or it could be: 1) Performing rigid component at the end
of building. 2) Applying with 3 dimensional truss system.
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