Building Green and Cost-Effective Structures

Cummins identified usage of Bamboo as an alternative cost-effective and sustainable building material in rural areas


India houses a population of nearly 1.2 billion out of which 72% stay in the rural areas. With advancement of science and technology, both urban and rural community has witnessed huge development in the area of infrastructural development. It has been observed that steel is the common raw material used for any construction purpose, both in rural and urban areas. It is estimated that more than 400 kg of steel is being used to construct one structure. Steel has become a more sustainable and easily available raw material in the market without any feasible, reliable and cost effective alternative.

It was found out that Bamboo as an alternative has the following properties: • Highly cost effective as compared to Steel

  • Natural resistance to moisture & rotting
  • No permission from the Forest Department in India is required to cut bamboo
  • Recommended to be harvested 2-3 times in a year to get best life of plant thus causing No Damage to Environment!
  • Widely available across India
  • Better tensile strength to weight ratio than steel

Approach and Efforts

Embarking on seeking a sustainable solution to this problem, Cummins started to explore cost -effective reliable alternatives that could successfully replace steel. While Bamboo is known to be an alternative, weak joinery methods did not ensure longevity of the Bamboo structure. Exploring the numerous alternatives using 'Analysis Led Design', Cummins engineers developed a joinery technique for various species of bamboo to withstand very high wind speed. This joinery method opens up many applications of Bamboo. Bamboo is recommended to be harvested 2-3 times in a year for continuous enhancement of the plant. As a result, the increased usage of bamboo poses no threat to the environment, providing a long-term environment-friendly alternative for building shelters in rural areas.

Cummins engineers have developed a modular design which uses only two components to construct structures of various sizes and can be easily transported using a bullock cart, which is generally easily available in rural areas. No mechanical operation is needed to assemble the structure at site and the local skills are good enough to build a structure. The design is capable of withstanding high wind speeds as well.

Resulting Change

The potential impact of use of bamboo on rural livelihood is massive and leads to generation of three different livelihood options to the rural community. Firstly, farmers growing bamboo will benefit because large scale use will result in bamboo emerging as a viable cash crop of degraded lands. The next in line beneficiary will be the carpenters who process and make bamboo products. This can be done through local workshops using power tools. The third in line to benefit from bamboo application will be the consumers who will be able to obtain a good material locally at a cheaper rate which is more environment-friendly. This project has got high replication potential not only in Maharashtra but all across the globe where bamboo is available in abundance. A canteen for ITI students at the Cummins Megasite in Phaltan has been constructed based on the designing analysis led by the Cummins team. Going forward, Cummins has decided to follow this 'analysis led designing' for any small scale construction work.

This project was undertaken in association with Reddy's Foundation. In addition to resources from Reddy's Foundation, a team of 18 Cummins employees from the research division completed this project in 60 days spending 150 hours beyond their working time. The project was also identified as the Best Technical Project in the global Environmental Challenge 2011 at Cummins.

Building Green and Cost-Effective Structures
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