Sugar Cane Bales in South Africa

Written by Andrew Morrison

sugar cane in the fieldA gentleman from the South African Sugar Research Institute contacted me today to discuss the potential of using sugar cane bio-mass in bales as a building material. He is very interested in the potential of sugar cane to provide affordable building materials for the thousands of men, women and children who cannot afford housing of adequate construction.

Sugar cane is used to produce 70% of the World’s sugar (with the remaining 30% coming from sugar beets). With total market production of over 120 million tons annually, grown in 121 countries, the crop produces adequate waste that might be suitable for bale construction. I mentioned my concerns of bale density, moisture content, and structural strength of the material to him in our communications.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue and hope to discover that the cane bio mass makes a suitable building material and thus provides affordable housing for many, many people. The sugar cane industry is huge in South Africa and as such could provide a large amount of material for the people to build with. He and I will discuss the next step of the process, labor education, in the future; assuming the cane passes the necessary tests for construction quality. I am excited about the possibility of success with this project.

7 Responses

  1. I am no expert in bale house construction, however I do have some knowledge on sugar cane. After, it is processed, i.e. all the sugar cane juice is extracted, what is left is an extremely tough biomatter. In fact this material is more rigid that wheat bale. I image if it is dried and baled just as wheat is, it can offer the same if not higher building properties than straw bale. Considering that wheat is not produced in many underdeveloped nations in the world, this I believe is the logical inexpensive substitute alternative.

  2. I’m an architectural technologist in South Africa. I’m doing my masters on alternative materials and methods this year. My plan is to provide low cost straw bale housing for low income groups in South Africa. I would like to get in touch with this gentleman you are talking about to discuss cost and availability of these bales. Do you know how I can get in contact with him?

  3. I have talked to some people building with sugar cane bales. To bad Andrew wants to block direct communications with people in need. terrible behavior

  4. Please feel free to post the contact information of the people you are in touch with Paul. I am in no way trying to censor communication. In fact, I hope that his blog can be a conduit for connection and communication, not limitation.

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