By Guest Blogger Jennifer Dastur, NCIDQ, LEED-AP

Black and white panda bears frolicking amongst the thick groves of tall bamboo plants in China create a lovely image as the consumer researches new options for flooring. Bamboo flooring has been touted as a renewable, sustainable, durable and stylish flooring alternative for several years. Although bamboo flooring can be quite a lovely addition to a home, the bamboo industry in China is highly unregulated, so the consumer must be aware of the drawbacks of this floor covering choice.

Due to the rise in demand of renewable goods for construction, many bamboo products have risen in popularity in the recent years. The bamboo plant has quickly taken over the Chinese market for flooring. Bamboo is a quick growing grass which reaches maturity within about five years and due to demand, hardwood forest within China are being decimated and replanted with bamboo, since a profit can be realized much sooner than with a hardwood crop, that takes 75 to 125 years to mature. With the clear cutting of the hardwood forest, the bamboo plantation encourages erosion of the soil, causing environmental damage.

When the consumer is considering sustainable flooring, they are generally looking for a safe, environmentally friendly product. Due to the unregulated industry of bamboo flooring, glue made of urea formaldehyde resin, is often used in the production of the flooring product. Some bamboo flooring will emit gases, which is a serious air pollutant and does not meet American health standards.

Product durability within the bamboo industry is not regulated either. The durability of the product often relates to the final cost of the material. A poorly manufactured product will often show splintering on the edges, scratches on the shiny finish, and sometimes, even dull dark areas, which can be mold. This type of product would perform poorly in any high traffic areas, such as a kitchen, entry way or game room. High quality strand bamboo flooring is good alternative to consider for these areas, as it often manufactured with an extremely low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) plasticizer and can be refinished in the future.

Although bamboo can be a good choice for certain installations, the ethical, sustainable consumer must conduct individual research pertaining to each product being considered. One resource is the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). The FSC monitors and awards companies based on their stewardship of the natural environment. The buyer must be willing to make an investment in both time and money to guarantee a bamboo flooring product that meets the criteria of renewable, sustainable, durable and stylish.

Jennifer Dastur
is the director of Lines and Designs Studio and a partner with the Collaborative Design Group, as well as an involved mother and community member.