Homeowners are often looking for home improvement options that strike the right balance between affordability, functionality, aesthetics and eco-friendliness. Bamboo has been marketed as something of a panacea—a kind of wonder wood that checks all the boxes. Designers, contractors and consumers have all taken note, as bamboo has made its way into homes as flooring, walls, window treatments, furniture and more. Here are the properties that are making this popular material a go-to green choice for interior design materials.
Affordability Bamboo is a readily available wood…except for the fact that bamboo isn’t a wood at all, but a grass! Therein lies the secret to bamboo’s ascendant success as a housing material: It grows like a weed because it essentially is one. At a maximum of three feet per day, it is, in fact, the fastest growing plant on Earth.
Just the one word “bamboo” doesn’t do justice to the range of looks the material offers. It can vary greatly in shades and textures, making it a versatile option for decorators and designers.
Whether natural or manmade, few materials can match bamboo’s physical properties pound for pound. Because bamboo grows in wet, tropical climates, it is well-suited to resisting rain and wind. In fact, this unassuming reed beats out hardwood, brick and concrete alike in terms of compressive strength, while rivaling steel in tensile strength.
As a growing number of homeowners look for eco-friendly materials in their decor, perhaps no single factor has contributed to bamboo’s modern vogue in interior design more than its sustainability. As it is a grass rather than a tree, it can grow to a harvestable size (often over 100 feet) in a matter of months. This is in stark contrast to the years of water, fertilizer and pesticide required by other timber woods.
‘Inelastic’ Inventory: It’s Fate
Affordability is a complex web. Home prices, incomes and mortgage rates all factor in. Land use limitations also play a role—but not as large and unchanging a role as location overall, according to a recent analysis by Freddie Mac.
Home builders often cite compliance costs related to land use and zoning as a factor—expenditures that, over the last 30 years, have pushed home prices into unaffordable terrain. A rollback in regulations, however—which constituents and policymakers have suggested—could be ineffective in markets where home-building is physically impossible, Freddie Mac’s latest Insight shows.
“A thought experiment can illustrate the impact of regulatory relief and the limits on that relief in a city that also is constrained by geography,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac. “Imagine that San Francisco’s land use regulations were relaxed significantly. The ensuing reduction in house values would encourage migration to San Francisco, but the city’s geographic constraints guarantee that housing would still be inelastically supplied despite the reduction in regulation.”
Analysts determined that even when applying Kansas City’s relatively loose regulations, home prices in San Francisco would be as much as three times higher than the national median because of its constraints geographically. Builders, in other words, would still have scarce options.
“Inelastic” inventory, the analysts found—even with ideal conditions in land use and zoning, and demand—equals stifled supply.