San Diego Architecture Students Win Cal Poly Prize with Bamboo Dwelling

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Five young design students spend a stormy weekend in the hills of San Luis Obispo, camping out in a structure made of Cali Bamboo poles. Their Design Village experience yields tales of mud-filled fun and a one-of-a-kind lesson in green architecture innovation.

Cali Bamboo poles

The student team wove thin, raw bamboo stalks into walls and a raised floor, and used the sturdy Moso poles for framing.

Bamboo windows (that actually let in light) were created by mixing ground bamboo chips with resin. Jarrar says the sturdy structure remained steadfast throughout the weekend and was 100% liveable.

Few camping trips yield as much innovation as the one five students from San Diego’s New School of Architecture and Design took on April 13th. The team of 2nd year design students journeyed to the hills of San Luis Obispo to compete against 50 other schools at Cal Poly’s annual open-air festival, Design Village.

The yearly competition challenges groups of two to six students to create avant-garde, interactive structures capable of housing team members for the two-night stay. Structures are judged for sustainability, craftsmanship, and how well they exemplify that year’s theme.

In light of the growing need for adaptable architecture, the village’s 2012 theme was Metamorphosis. Dwellings had to be capable of physically transforming during the competition and serve a useful purpose once disassembled back home.

In keeping with this morphing theme, the NSAD team devised a structure made of three, offset triangular rooms that transformed into a two room structure for sleeping in, with two triangles joining to form a larger diamond-shaped space. After the festival, the structure was broken down into panels which the team gave to friends for shelving, room dividers and even a bed headboard.

Beyond its transforming capabilities, the design boasts an impressive sustainability factor. From the walls to the windows, every inch is composed of bamboo - the rapid-growing, renewable woody grass that also happens to be an ultra-durable building material.

“It is one of the easiest materials to work with because of how strong it is and how light it is -- and it looks good too!" says 23-year-old Moe Jarrar, a member of the NSAD student team. "Actually, it ended up being stronger than we expected; we had planned to use more bracing and didn’t need to.”

The structure’s main framework was constructed using 75 cured Moso bamboo poles, provided by green construction materials company Cali Bamboo. Thinner, raw bamboo stalks (collected from the yard of a couple who were trying to get rid of the persistent plant) were woven to create walls and a floor. Bamboo windows (that actually let in light) were even created by mixing ground bamboo chips with resin. Jarrar says the sturdy structure remained steadfast throughout the weekend and was 100% liveable. “It whistled because of the paneling, but it was kind of a nice whistle.”

Beyond being “liveable” the end result was also impressive -- particularly in the eyes of Cal Poly judges. The NSAD “Bamboo Team” claimed 4th Place and honorable mention among the 51 teams competing. Another NSAD team won the “most adaptable” project award.

Fame and glory aside, Jarrar says the Design Village experience also gave students some exceptional college memories.

“It was freezing, freezing outside of the structure, and on the day we carried it up there -- all uphill, 0.8 miles -- it was storming and really muddy. We laid the floor panels down first and then used the 10-foot bamboo poles to create the type of structure you would carry a pharaoh in on. That’s how we carried in our project as well as two other teams’ structures.”

“All in all,” he says, speaking of the less-than-ideal weather, “I think it made the experience way more epic and fun.”

About Cali Bamboo, LLC
Based in San Diego, Cali Bamboo manufactures green building materials for residential and commercial projects made primarily from bamboo -- one of the world’s most durable, sustainable and renewable materials. Founded in 2004, the company has become a model of how individuals, businesses and communities can implement modern design while maintaining structural strength and environmental integrity. Cali Bamboo’s wide range of bamboo products includes bamboo flooring, fencing, composite decking, plywood and more.

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Laura Kaplan-Nieto
Cali Bamboo
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