Compositing Poaceae: Grass Assemblies for Architecture and Construction

Chemistry; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Materials Science and Engineering; Engineering; Engineering Science and Materials; Biomaterials; Construction Engineering/management; Biology and Biomimetic Materials; Modern Art and Architecture

Expanding on the success of the mass timber industry, this project aims to pilot the development of biocomposite building panels made of grass species and bio-based adhesives.

Research Interests
  • Architecture
  • Digital Fabrication
  • construction
  • Construction automation
  • Biomaterials
  • Materials Management
  • Materials testing methods
  • Design automation
  • Grass
  • Reeds
  • Ecology
  • Manufacturing
  • Standardization: history, politics and practice
  • Sustainability
  • Urbanism and sustainability

Recent developments in mass timber have demonstrated the potential for bipartisan political support and industry investment in sustainable construction practices. While mass timber offers many benefits in terms of renewable sourcing and carbon sequestration, intensive energy and material waste is embedded into its production (trees are harvested, reduced into dimension lumber, and reassembled into specific dimensions). This project draws from the benefits offered by mass timber, but introduces grass as a favorable material source, which renews at much faster rates, can be grown globally, and requires no part reduction.

The team will study and leverage grass construction techniques that developed independently across cultures and were widespread prior to the onset of industrialization. Local grass and reed species will be explored for advantageous qualities and ecological impact. Layup and compositing strategies as well as bioadhesive components will be developed, prototyped, and tested. 

Desired outcomes

  1. Identify species and source materials streams within the local region, looking at UVA’s Morven Farm and Milton Airfield as potential material sources.

  2. Evaluate commercial bioadhesives, prototype custom bioadhesives, and engage local timber manufacturers to develop appropriate lamination strategy. 

  3. Assemble and test prototype panels

  4. Create a demonstration assembly, to be exhibited on Grounds and beyond.

  5. As a team, prepare and submit grant proposals to NSF, USDA, and others.