Zeta Alpha (Clemson) Brothers Create Innovative Building Material

Nine brothers of the Zeta Alpha Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi (Clemson) led by Brother Mayank Patel (ZA 651) have been involved with an initiative to explore the potential of bamboo as a steel rebar alternative.

This project has allowed members of our chapter to go above and beyond excelling not just at raising money for the Ability Experience, but to also now make considerable progress at potentially saving the lives of millions of people in third world countries.The goal of the Bamboo Reinforced Concrete Project is to design and build a wall that uses bamboo as a structural alternative to steel rebar in order to replicate the shear strength and load bearing capabilities that traditional rebar provides for concrete walls, while minimizing cost. The inspiration for this project comes the infrastructure flaws (lack of steel rebar reinforcement) that resulted in the deaths of thousands during the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

Some, if not most, of those deaths could have been avoided if the infrastructure of the buildings in Haiti had some sort of reinforcement. Steel rebar is the primary source of structural reinforcement in the United States, but it is much too expensive to be used in Haiti. However, recent studies by graduate students at Clemson University show strong promise in the use of bamboo as a reinforcement in walls and buildings. Furthermore, unlike steel rebar, bamboo is an abundant natural resource and is the fastest growing plant in the world, which makes it cheap and easy to access.

Because of this, bamboo is the perfect material to be used as structural reinforcement in Haiti. During this semester, the designs for a bamboo reinforced concrete wall prototype have been finalized and construction on the first prototype is near completion. The Bamboo Reinforced Concrete Team has put in countless hours at the Wind and Structural Engineering Research (WiSER) facility working on the prototype, which required a homemade steamer.

The team had to design and create a steamer in which they could steam their split bamboo pieces in order to have the ability to bend them into the necessary shapes for the bamboo “cage,” which acts as the structural reinforcement base of the prototype. By the end of the semester, two in plane forms will be tested to determine the feasibility of bamboo as a steel rebar alternative.