The Cities of the Future will be made of Bamboo

Troy Carter
Published in
4 min readFeb 22, 2020


Looking back on the 2020s, we will celebrate a golden decade when humanity made major steps toward restoring global climate balance, cities became a beautiful expression of human creativity and our sacred relationship with nature, and communities around the world were supported by a new wave of regenerative development in building materials, energy, transportation, food, water, and economic and social structures.

Yet the challenge we face today is still daunting…
Tokyo’s Proposed 350m Mass Timber Building

The global construction industry is an ecological disaster…

Buildings are the biggest source of carbon emissions in the world: 39% of CO2 emissions come from construction materials and building operations.

Cement contributes ~7% and steel ~8% of global emissions. Wood requires huge land areas and are harvested globally at unsustainable rates, with 18.7 million acres/year of new deforestation. There’s no end in sight as new construction demand will continue to grow to accommodate population expansion, rural migration to cities, and climate refugees. Carbon offset reforestation projects are notoriously difficult to get verified, track, and prove CO2 sequestration, so have been hampered in large-scale implementation.

Introducing RIZOME

We’re on a mission for the planet to make urban development regenerative.

At RIZOME, we’re planting one of the largest carbon sequestration projects on the planet, scaling engineered bamboo lumber into a primary global construction material, and building the first climate-positive cities and buildings.

Regenerative Bamboo Cities

Engineered bamboo lumber is the material technology that will launch a regenerative urban revolution.

We believe that one of the largest disruptions in construction materials in the coming decades will be the widespread adoption of structural bamboo. As this shift occurs, every new building will support a climate-positive CO2 drawdown, and create regenerative local bamboo economies in regions that need it the most.

Mass Timber

Sidewalk Labs Mass Timber

Wood buildings are amazing. They are beautiful, sustainable, fast to build, and safe. If you haven’t gotten on the mass timber train yet, check out this talk by Michael Greene or this podcast by Sidewalk Labs, or Katerra, who are doing some of the coolest things for the modern wood movement. Even super-tall skyscrapers are in the works. And everything that can be made from wood can be made with bamboo, and better.

Engineered Bamboo Lumber

We have created the first-ever viable bamboo alternative to steel, concrete, and wood.

Bamboo is amazing. It is super strong and light, which means we can build cheaper, taller, and safer buildings than ever before. At RIZOME we’ve developed the first large-scale engineered structural bamboo lumber after two decades of materials science, sourcing, regulatory compliance, and manufacturing innovation.

Superior Construction Material

• 2x stronger than wood

• 2.5x the tensile strength and 1.5x bending strength of steel (by weight)

Has greater compressive strength than high-performance concrete

• More fire-resistant than wood: Class A fire rating, and chars rather than melts to prevent steel-framed catastrophic collapse

• More earthquake-proof than concrete/steel construction

The first RIZOME processing facility in the Philippines; we think it’s the most gorgeous factory we’ve ever seen!

How does it work?

First, we harvest the best giant bamboo in the world from a vast network of small farmers and indigenous groups throughout SE Asia. We then split the bamboo lengthwise into long slats and treat it with high-pressure borate to ensure longevity and fire resistance. Then we bond the slats together into plywood or thick timbers.


Bamboo is great for the planet. The more we harvest the faster it grows, sequestering carbon, restoring watersheds, providing wildlife habitat, and supporting small farmers and indigenous communities. We believe that modern development doesn’t have to be a compromise between ecological health and human wellbeing and creativity.

Bamboo Sequesters a Ton of Carbon

Literally, every clump of giant bamboo sequesters more than a metric tonne of CO2 each year, which is the highest drawdown rate of any plant or technology we know.

• Bamboo sequesters 10x carbon vs trees : 200+ tonnes/hectare/year

• Bamboo uses only ~8% the land area than wood for the same amount of building material

• Bamboo’s unique rhizome/root structure restores watersheds and prevents erosion

• Bamboo is a perennial grass: the more we harvest, the faster it grows!

We’re planting one of the largest reforestation initiatives on the planet with the goal of drawing down 10 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2050, or ~1% of total human-created greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon is sequestered in the soil and in long-term durable building materials, so the more we build, the greater the carbon drawdown.

Market Inflection

Our team’s been at this a while. Some of the original pioneers of bamboo technology are finally seeing their research come to fruition. Our harvest and manufacturing has reached a level of efficiency that makes bamboo as cheap as wood, and we’ll soon be at a scale to provide a consistent supply chain to the largest engineered lumber manufacturers and building developers globally. 2020 will be the year when bamboo dimensional lumber and plywood finally go mainstream, kicking off a sustainability revolution in climate-positive building. If you are a developer, architect, building professional, or funder, please reach out and let’s make this change together.

with love


Some of the RIZOME team members in a Dendrocalamus asper forest