bamboo floor

The big news last weekend in Singapore was the announcement by S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry that the F1 carnival is finally coming to our shores.

F1 is the most un-green sport today. Today’s Straits Times newspaper carried an article with some fascinating nuggets of information to show just how polluting it is:

  • Each F1 car burns up to a litre of fuel and releases 1,500g of carbon dioxide per km, which contributes to an estimated 10 tonnes of CO2 per race weekend.
  • The mooted night race format requires an estimated 500 energy-sapping high-intensity light poles.
  • F1 car engines are loud enough to be heard literally half way across Singapore, or shatter glass windows of nearby buildings.

Coincidentally, S Iswaran was also the Guest-of-Honour at the prize-awarding ceremony for the Eco Products International Fair (EPIF) 2006 where Star Bamboo won the Silver Medal for our bamboo flooring:

EPIF 2006 award ceremony

The EPIF and F1 are at opposite ends of the eco-friendliness scale, but there is one common link.

From the outset, the Singapore government has cited commercial reasons for courting F1: tourism receipts, branding of Singapore as a cosmopolitan and glamourous city to 500 million television viewers, and jobs creation.

That is why the Singapore government has committed itself to spending up to S$90m per year for the F1 race. If green businesses were ever to enjoy this level of support, we would have to demonstrate the same kind of ROI.

After all, it’s just business.


One of the most common issues we face during installation is dents on our bamboo flooring.

During a renovation or construction project, flooring is usually the last item. Ideally, most of the other works would already have been completed when we are installing the flooring, leaving perhaps some light carpentry work.

That’s the theory. Due to time constraints and unforeseen delays, job sites are usually chaotic places. One of my installer half-jokingly calls them as “war zones”.

Bamboo is very hard and durable, but it is nowhere as hard as a metal hammer. Accidents do happen.

So what can we do?


I remember when Star Bamboo first started production in 2001, there were concerns over the viability of the business.

People could see that our bamboo flooring product was lovely and durable, but they wondered if eco-friendly products would do well in a market where price was often the prime consideration.

Would people be willing to spend their money on eco-friendly products?


What a dry and boring title, sounds like it’s from an academic journal.

Wait a minute, it is from an academic journal. Forest Products Journal, to be precise.

This was a scientific study to evaluate the properties of commercial bamboo flooring, like those made by Star Bamboo. You will need to pay to obtain the full report, but I gleaned some interesting facts from the abstract (my thoughts below each point):

1. Bamboo flooring was more dimensionally stable than red oak flooring.

No surprise, this is one of the main benefits of using bamboo flooring – it’s dimensionally more stable than many popular hardwoods.

2. The mean hardness of bamboo flooring was significantly greater than those of red oak flooring at 65 percent RH and a temperature of 21°C.

This is verified by the Janka hardness scale as well. Bamboo flooring has a Janka hardness rating of around 1500, which is about 10% higher than that of American red oak (~1350).

3. Exposure to 90 percent relative humidity (RH) and water submersion caused more hardness reduction in bamboo flooring than in red oak flooring.

Considering the high hardness of bamboo flooring, this result is surprising. It suggests that bamboo flooring is not suitable for extremely humid regions, or locations which are open to rain such as bathroom, garden and balconies.

Thankfully, there aren’t many regions with a constant RH of over 90%. I hail from hot and humid Singapore – it is impossible to get through a day without sweating.

Yet our RH is usually only around 50% to 70%. In fact, most indoor environments have a RH of only 30%, thanks to the ubiquitous air-conditioning.

Air con units everywhere in Singapore

So it’s safe to say that bamboo flooring is suitable for installation in almost every country.

In any case, we already advise our customers not to install in the bathroom or unsheltered areas (this is also the case for most wooden products).

It’s nice to have some scientific proof to back up what we say in our brochures, it’s not all just marketing talk you know. 🙂

p.s. If you’re curious as to how I found the above journal article, it’s thanks to a new Google feature called Google Scholar. I love Google!

A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go.

“Hey!” shouts the manager. “Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”

The panda yells back at the manager, “Hey man, I am a PANDA! Look it up!”

The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: “A tree-dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterised by distinct black and white colouring. Eats shoots and leaves.”

Something to brighten up your week.


But seriously, I have received queries from concerned customers wondering if our bamboo flooring enterprise is depriving those endangered pandas of their food source.

The short answer is, No. We use a different species of bamboo from what pandas eat.

Lucy Siegle of The Observer asked a slightly different question: Will the focus on commercially viable species of bamboo result in monoculture, and lead to the extinction of the other species, including the ones that pandas depend on for sustenance?

She’s right to point out that making a product out of bamboo, however renewable and fast-growing it may be, does not automatically qualify it as an eco-friendly product. The source of the bamboo is just as crucial.

Star Bamboo only uses bamboo material that has been certified by the local Shaowu government. It has a programme in place to manage the harvesting of bamboo in the region.

It is also important to note that the species of bamboo we use, commonly known as Moso, is native to the region. It was not a species imported for commercial reasons.

Ms Siegle also remarked:

Material scientists also question the way bamboo is processed, predominantly in China, using elemental chlorine (which produces toxic dioxins) and where there are little to no standards or controls governing air emissions and liquid effluents.

Well, we don’t use a chemical as toxic and difficult to handle as chlorine in our production.

Instead, hydrogen peroxide is our preferred choice. It achieves a good bleaching effect for our Natural bamboo flooring, and the by-products are only oxygen and water.

It is costly too, which explains why Natural bamboo flooring is generally priced higher than Carbonised bamboo flooring.

So back to the question, do bamboo flooring manufacturers steal food from pandas?

The long answer is, it depends on the practices and ethics of the manufacturer. So please purchase only from responsible manufacturers, and market forces will ensure that the pandas do not go hungry.

There are many ways of going green.

For example, you can choose to buy energy-saver light bulbs to replace your old incandescent bulbs. Or you could use energy-efficient versions of electrical appliances that typically would suck up huge amounts of electricity, e.g. refrigerators and air-conditioning units.

These products might cost you more to buy, but will cost you less to use. So they will save you money in the long run. Savings cents definitely makes sense.

However, there are other ways of going green which will not save you any money. In fact, it might even cost you more.

There are many wonderful items made from recycled and reclaimed materials. Buying them consumers less resources and reduces the impact on our environment.


But would (or should) you spend US$52.95 on a soft toy made from old sweaters?

Or an eye-watering £1,500 (US$3,000) for a rocking chair made from an old cinema seat?

Now, why are they charging such high prices? Is it because of:

1) high cost of materials?

Unlikely, these are recycled materials after all.

2) high cost of labour?

Maybe. Incorporating recycled materials into your products is an hands-on affair and mostly eschews the use of machines.

3) low and inelastic demand?

This would be my guess. Such products are very niche, finding willing buyers in a miniscule group of people. However, they are usually able to pay the high asking prices. Faced with such a market, it would only make financial sense to demand more for your green products.

Bamboo flooring is also a green product. So why are we not tapping into this niche market and charging high prices for our products? After all, I have come across bamboo flooring companies who charge 30% more than us for the equivalent product.

Even though the costs of producing bamboo flooring is higher than simply chopping down trees and milling the logs, my aim is to price them to wooden flooring as closely as possible.

My hope is that one day bamboo flooring would no longer be considered a niche product for the eco-conscious consumer, but a mainstream product that everyone could enjoy.

High pricing would automatically discourage the typical consumer from considering it or even finding out more. We would have missed out on the chance to educate and inform them about the benefits and beauty of bamboo flooring.

What a pity that would be.

Whenever I get a customer enquiry, I would ask where they found us from. It’s the simplest and most effective way of tracking our marketing efforts.

Usually they found us from the Internet, or came across our booth at the various trade shows we do.

The other day, the customer’s answer took me by surprise.

“Oh, I found you from Home & Decor magazine. The latest issue.”

Home & Decor is one of the most established and well-respected interior design and renovation magazine in Singapore and Malaysia.

It was certainly a pleasant surprise because it has been some time since I met with the writer Sio Hui.

So I popped by the big magazine kiosk in IMM building where our office is, and bought a copy.

There’re lots of interesting snippets in the article, and introduces various recycled and renewable materials that are both funky and eco-friendly.

Star Bamboo was mentioned for our “resilient bamboo flooring and furniture fabrications”.

I would like to scan the article (at least part of it) for you, especially those international clients from outside Singapore.

So I’m dropping an email to the magazine to seek their permission first. Will update you once I hear from them. 🙂

Thanks again, Home & Decor!

Next Page »