A new study says increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.

Researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria examined bamboo’s structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.  Their findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”, says the study.  “Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change.”

This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials – mainly steel and cement – and the energy required to heat and cool buildings. It’s estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30 percent and 40 percent of the country’s climate-changing carbon emissions

The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.

The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.