In March, Bangladesh's capital city became home to the world's first cell tower constructed entirely out of bamboo — proof that emerging Asia can simultaneously tackle two of its most pressing concerns: infrastructure investment and renewable resources.
Developed by Malaysian firm edotco and the Bangladesh University of Engineering, the tower took just 12 days to build, versus 28 days for a traditional steel structure, and consumed less energy to manufacture.
Bamboo boasts a low carbon footprint as it produces oxygen and captures carbon dioxide during cultivation, while sourcing for steel causes scarring to landscapes from the mining of natural resources, edotco CEO Suresh Sidhu explained. The plant takes just six months to regenerate and can be re-harvested every three years without any environmental damage, he added.
The company intends to roll out more bamboo structures as proof of concepts in other parts of Dhaka this year and will gradually expand to other markets where the firm is present, such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
"We hope this (tower) will inspire infrastructure companies to focus on renewable materials," Sidhu told CNBC.
Abundant throughout Asia, especially China, bamboo has long been a go-to building material for construction players drawn to its tensile strength, light weight, low cost and mass quantities. In 2007, mainland China built the world's first truck-safe bamboo road bridge, which allows a maximum load of 90 tons, according to China Daily.
One of the potential drawbacks of bamboo in construction is its susceptibility to termites, mold attacks and other adverse climate conditions, but eco-friendly treatment processes such as borax coating can help.
While bamboo design has taken off globally — in 2008, Mexico City's Nomadic Museum was the world's largest bamboo structure — it's especially relevant for developing Asia.