Published on July 28th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Banking On Bamboo

July 28th, 2013 by  

This is Part 2 of a two-part (or perhaps three-part), multi-site series about Santa Clara University’s 2013 Solar Decathlon house, Radiant House. Read Part 1 here.

By Brian Grau

Our team of Santa Clara University students is out to prove that bamboo is more than just a snack for Pandas — it could be the future of the sustainable construction industry. Bamboo provides the bones of Radiant House, our entry into the 2013 Solar Decathlon, where 20 schools from around the world compete to design and build a fully solar-powered home. While bamboo is typically used as a decorative material, we’ve found a way to make bamboo part of the structure of the house. Several generations of SCU students have spent 10 years turning bamboo into structural elements. Bamboo can be found in Radiant House’s walls, floor, and ceiling.

While the round shape of bamboo and its hollow culms, or stems, make the plant viable for forming “tiki hut-type structures” in tropical lands, it is not used for building much in other parts of the world, according to Project Manager Jake Gallau. Through a faculty member in SCU’s civil engineering department, though, we found a type of bamboo from Vietnam that makes the plant far more useful.

bamboo house

“It’s a particular strain of bamboo, smaller – about an inch around instead of three inches – and with a solid, not hollow culm,” Gallau explained. Because bamboo is both elegant and highly sustainable, it is usually integrated in some way within most solar house entries. But Gallau said Radiant House is the first to fully use the plant’s potential as a construction material. “With the type of bamboo we’re using, we can square off a large piece and make one-inch rods that can be doweled together for a flat surface,” he explained. “It’s much less labor-intensive than chopping up chunks and gluing pieces together.”

More images available on the Radiant House website or Facebook page.

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  • Jayant Mehta

    Bamboo has been transformed into many products that can be used quite effectively into modern day homes and replace products that can be useful to reduce the green house gases. We have just completed the remodel of our house and used Bamboo for flooring, staircase and all the cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom. Additional opportunities do exist in the usage of bamboo for the modern home. We have extensively used windows and all the windows are made from Fiber Glass. Additionally we have used Sun Tunnels all over the house and so natural light is available from Dawn to Dusk in every corner of the house. We have added under floor heating in all the tile areas such as Kitchen, Dining and Bathrooms, which will benefit the heating of the house with Solar PV. I would like to know where else we can use Bamboo and am interested in trying for the same. Using sustainable products with renewable energy is the way going forward.

    • Rakesh

      Jayant Good to read about your interest in Bamboo and sustainable practices. I have built a Bamboo Bicycle and use it extensively. It is great fun to build and use products made out of Bamboo.

  • Wayne Williamson

    cool project….
    Just one thing, houses should be made of concrete and steel…not some biodegradable stuff like 99.9 percent of them are now…

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