August 30, 2019 3:55 pm
Updated: August 30, 2019 6:15 pm

Lethbridge College graduates find sustainable alternative to steel re-enforcement bars

Three Lethbridge College graduates have earned a prestigious award for their work exploring bamboo as an alternative to steel in concrete construction projects. Demi Knight reports.


Three Lethbridge College graduates looking to make a social impact in the world of construction set their sights on an environmentally friendly project. Their primary material: bamboo.

Tyson Baldrey, Randy Holmberg and Allan Johnston created a project using bamboo injected with polymer as an alternative to steel re-enforcement rods.

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“The combination of bamboo and concrete is well established in the research pool,” Baldrey said. “But we found that there was still room for improvement and analysis of suitability from a North American perspective.”

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The trio graduated from Lethbridge College’s engineering design and drafting technology program in 2018.

During their time at the institution, the team took an interest in creating a sustainable product that could be easily accessed by first world and developing countries.

“Social and sustainable kind of go hand-in-hand,” Baldrey said.

“Steel is really expensive and there are some countries in the world where they rely on 100 per cent imports for it. But, it just so happens those countries also have natural resources readily available in large quantities, such as bamboo.”

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In 2018, the project was entered into the Capstone Project of the Year Awards, hosted by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET).

In July 2019, the project was named the winner.

“What struck us as really interesting is not only is this a unique and innovative approach to construction materials, but it’s done out of a social concern and out of a sense of what people really need and how knowledge can be used for the benefit of people in the developing world,” ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh said.

He said these awards highlight the innovative work being done by both institutions and students across the province, adding this project in particular has created a viable alternative to a worldwide need.

“These projects simply demonstrate that intelligence combined with ingenuity leads to innovation,” he said.

“Because they injected a polymer into the bamboo now we’re into a situation where you don’t have the problem that you have with concrete, where re-enforcing rods may rust and cause a weakness in the concrete structure eventually. What you’ve got instead is something that is essentially permanent.”

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Throughout the project, Baldry said the group found these bamboo rods injected with an organic polymer to boost the structural characteristics of the material were a success on small-scale loads.

However, Baldrey added more research needs to be done on the subject before moving to large-scale construction work. He hopes to see an outside interest in the project to help move that research forward.

“We haven’t necessarily found anywhere else that’s using an injectable with bamboo,” he said.

“We’re hoping to stoke the fire with that whole process moving forward and see if someone can possibly take the reigns and further it.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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