July 10, 2012

Bronco Harrier Works to Design Bamboo Housing in Haiti

Photo to the right: left to right: Dr. Mark Aschheim, Jake Echeverria, Chris Sampson and Dr. Tonya Nilsson in the middle of testing one of their many connections.

Photo Gallery of Project

Chris Sampson's senior project was not the typical research paper or in-depth project that is merely for the benefit of the student. As a civil engineering major who would graduate in June of 2012, Sampson's senior design project was for the benefit of those in need. With many parts of the world in dire need of sustainable and cost-effective housing that will survive natural disasters, the Bronco cross country student-athlete came to the conclusion that his skills would be best utilized assisting others. Along with his partner Jake Echeverria, the two Santa Clarans developed a design for bamboo housing in Haiti.

"With engineering, we are trained to solve all types of problems, but they are usually projects in the classroom," said Sampson, who explained that Santa Clara requires its civil engineering students to have at least one aspect of sustainability integrated into the project. "This was different, because we were actually designing, building and testing connection of bamboo to bamboo poles."

When Sampson and Echeverria began exploring ideas, they originally landed on designing and building a bridge for a village in Honduras. But that decision fell through when they realized working with Engineers Without Borders failed to enable them to meet deadlines.

The transition worked out.

Joining the Ecological Building Network (EBNet), Sampson and Echeverria dove into their new project. With the assistance of Santa Clara Professor Mark Aschheim and Santa Clara Professor Tonya Nilsson, in addition to EBnet, they conducted research that is only being done in a handful of places in the world.

Bamboo isn't the most reliable of building materials. But it's inexpensive and strong if used properly.

This is where Sampson and Echeverria's research came into play. By focusing on being able to control the failure mode, Sampson and his team worked to determine a way to ensure consistency from pole to pole.

"We needed to design a house for them that would be easy to build, use local materials, be strong enough to handle an earthquake or hurricane, and that would be sustainable," said Sampson.

The design utilizes low quality steel, weak concrete, galvanized wire and bamboo.

"We hope to see the project move to Haiti," said Sampson. "They have already started growing bamboo in Haiti so hopefully the research will be used once it is complete."

Sampson and his team are on the right track, as the report was accepted into the Non-Traditional Materials and Construction Techniques Conference that will take place in China.

"The project being accepted was a great honor and it was amazing to see our hard work pay off," said Sampson. "It has really been great to get involved with such a great cause."

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