Client Story.

BamCore adds building tech to bamboo for sustainable structural leap

BamCore is a fascinating example of innovation in AEC. The US maker of bamboo-based wall-panel systems is on the BuiltWorlds Building Tech 50 list. Its ‘stronger, faster and greener’ approach leverages both better building materials and tech-driven process improvements. That tech includes some of Agacad’s products for BIM and other solutions that Autodesk itself is investing to help develop.


Brenden Morton was a property developer when he heard about the concept of using bamboo for structural walls and worked with BamCore to build and sell the first house with such walls in 2011. He is now Director for Platform & Job Engineering at BamCore, which is headquartered in Sonoma County, California, and has a factory in Ocala, Florida.


BamCore has had to hustle to meet growing demand for its unique wall panels, prefabbed to customer specifications, which are redefining the low-rise built environment.


One challenge has been getting enough bamboo.


“We’ve had to build a supply pipeline, since there was really no global market for bamboo,” Morton says. The company now has more than a dozen suppliers on four continents that provide sustainably harvested bamboo culms.


BamCore's founder, William McDonald, had been working in framing for years when he learned about timber bamboo, which is not only extremely fast-growing but also one of nature’s strongest cellulosic fibres. Combining strips of bamboo with plywood, BamCore developed a hybrid panel that is structural and load bearing, yielding stud-less walls that are stronger, thermally superior, and faster to build than any conventional framing. They're also greener in many ways.

A second challenge was regulatory. Early projects needed an ‘alternative materials and methods’ permit. But after a technical evaluation in 2016, BamCore’s wall system was certified as code compliant. Finally, practical knowledge of timber bamboo’s structural and mechanical properties was limited. BamCore had to do its own R&D on how best to assemble strips of bamboo into sheets and combine them with wood to preserve the integrity of the ultra-strong fibre strands. Its panels at first were a core of bamboo in wood veneer. But later, using a plywood core with bamboo on the outside produced an even stronger panel requiring only half as much bamboo.

BamCore sees using technology to automate work – from design to CAD-CAM and beyond – as key to improving efficiency and reducing human error. In this area, it often works with outside partners.


“We’ve worked closely with Autodesk to develop tools to improve workflows and collaboration,” Morton notes. Current initiatives with Autodesk involve machine learning to optimise nesting when CNC cutting panels with shiplap connections, communication between design team members who work in different platforms, and a carbon accounting and energy modelling tool to help steer design decisions.


Pushing the boundaries of how buildings are designed, built, operated, and maintained, BamCore sees both the materials and the technology side as vital. “They go hand in hand,” Morton stresses. “The material has enabled this leap forward in how the design happens, but then the technology has enabled design and collaboration to be much more effective and efficient.”

BamCore is part of the needed shift to more sustainable construction. Its approach combines both reduction of building-related emissions and removal of already-emitted carbon from the atmosphere.

Research shows bamboo can sequester 5-6 times more carbon than trees. That is due both to the plant’s incredible growth rate, reaching a full height of 60-90 feet (20-30 meters) in one season and maturing for use in 3-4 years (versus 20-40 years for trees), and the fact that harvesting bamboo culms does not require clear cutting and replanting.
As for BamCore walls, they eliminate 80-90% of internal framing in walls along with the related thermal bridging and gaps in insulation, resulting in a wall that is about 80% more thermally efficient than a conventional stud wall. International sustainability consultant Quantis has calculated that BamCore walls give a reduction of 125 tonnes of CO2 over the 70-year life of an average U.S. house.
CO2 reduction
125 tons
over 70 year life of average house
of internal framing in walls
Thermal efficiency
more than conventional stud wall
As for total impact, BamCore is scaling fast and the carbon footprint benefits should also jump as it develops not just wall but also subfloor, roofing, and CLT systems.
Products used
“We’ve been working with Agacad for over two years now,” says Brenden Morton, Director for Platform & Job Engineering at BamCore. “Agacad's suite of BIM tools for framing in Revit has been really useful for automating things like element numbering, views and cut lists. We also use their tools to dimension our shop drawings, which saves a whole day or two per project. That’s significant. And with Agacad ready even to update their code for our needs, it’s really more of a partnership with them than just a customer-vendor relationship.”
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