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Bamboo Construction/Sustainable Design

Pittsburgh — Although bamboo has been used as a building material for millennia, only recently have public and private organizations studied the plant’s mechanical properties and worked toward developing construction standards. To further that research, engineering faculty at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) received a $300,000 National Science Foundation award to develop materials- and mechanics-based models for the behavior of full-culm bamboo as a functionally graded, fiber-reinforced material.

Principal investigator of the grant, “Collaborative Research: Full-culm Bamboo as a Full-fledged Engineering Material,” is Kent Harries, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellow at Pitt. Co-investigators are John Brigham, senior lecturer of applied mechanics at Durham University, and Christopher Papadopoulos, associate professor of engineering sciences and materials at UPRM.

According to Dr. Harries, this is believed to be the first “materials science” study focused on bamboo funded by NSF, and is the first collaborative grant between the Swanson School and UPRM. The research is part of the recently formed Nonconventional Engineering Materials Initiative (NocEMat) at Pitt.

“In its natural full-culm (hollow tube) state, bamboo has evolved to efficiently resist a variety of environmental loads, which is why it makes a superb building material. However, only in the past few decades have we begun to apply engineering principles to its use so that we can expand its application as a sustainable construction material,” Dr. Harries said. “This award will enable us to apply materials and mechanical engineering principles to modeling, field tests, and design equations, thereby placing bamboo on the same engineering footing as more conventional materials such as wood.”

Dr. Harries notes that in developing regions, standardization of non-conventional building materials serves technical, ecological and social goals which empower rural communities to directly participate in construction of safe and reliable housing as well as to sustainably develop local economies. In particular, this project will leverage local resources in Puerto Rico and Haiti to sponsor a variety of training and educational activities deployed in four languages (English, Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole).

“In many areas of the world, traditional building materials such as timber, concrete and steel are too expensive or simply unavailable for everyday use, especially within developing countries,” Dr. Harries said. “Full-culm bamboo provides the potential of utilizing a sustainable, durable and affordable resource for housing, emergency shelters, and other traditional building applications.”

Washington, D.C. — Scheduled to open on September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture represents much more than a cultural and architectural landmark. It is also set to be a representation of best practices in sustainable building design.

The building is expected to perform 30.5 percent better than the average code-compliant ASHRAE 90.1-2004 building, with a proposed energy use intensity (EUI) of 92.0 kBtu/SF. The project will be the first within the Smithsonian Institution to achieve this level of sustainability, generate electricity, and use of chilled beams.

Helping the museum reach this level of sustainability are a number of innovative design features, including:

  • 384-panel photovoltaic array capable of producing 102,562 kWH of electricity annually;
  • occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting;
  • chilled beam units for office areas;
  • demand-controlled ventilation; and
  • rainwater and groundwater storage and reuse system.

Paul Corrado, Senior Vice President, was WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s principal-in-charge on the project, working with architects Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroupJJR. As principal-in-charge, Corrado was responsible for overall design direction and project management related to mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering; building technology; and sustainable engineering. An established veteran of museum projects, Corrado has also lent his expertise to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts east wing expansion; the New England Aquarium’s east wing expansion and renovation; the Peabody Essex Museum; and the UMASS Edward M Kennedy Institute of the United States Senate.
Robert Goossens, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, led commissioning efforts for the project. Goossens placed great emphasis on design review prior to bid package and contractor/vendor selection. The commissioning team worked to reduce change orders during the construction phases, thereby reducing costs and helping to keep the project on schedule.

Articles refrenced from cenews.com (civil and structural engineering)