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Can We Build with Plants? Cabin Construction Using Green Composites

John C. Hoiby1, Anil N. Netravali2,*

1 Nordic Office of Architecture, Sørkedalsveien 6, PB 7057 Majorstuen, N-0306 Oslo
2 Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4401

* Corresponding Author: email

Journal of Renewable Materials 2015, 3(3), 244-258.


This article discusses the construction (virtual model) of a fully green cabin using two types of green composites: those that use natural plant-based fibers with soy protein-based resin which have mechanical properties comparable to wood and wood products, and those that use liquid crystalline cellulose fibers with soy proteinbased resin which have properties comparable to high strength steel. Green composites with moderate strength were used to create molded walls and advanced green composites were used to create the load-bearing framework of the cabin. Construction with molded composites and prefabricated framework can greatly simplify traditional wood construction based on many parts or layers. Since the walls can be molded into different shapes, there are many possibilities for designing cabin shapes. The design is also modular and scalable. The article also describes the building of 3D ‘FiberWall’ using thin membrane-like green composites, providing fibrous texture. FiberWall design can provide not only light-filtering capabilities but also visibility control, and with added sound absorbant layers, it can also regulate sound in a space. This article exemplifies how materials scientists and architects can work collaboratively to reduce the carbon footprint through green construction.


Cite This Article

Hoiby, J. C., Netravali, A. N. (2015). Can We Build with Plants? Cabin Construction Using Green Composites. Journal of Renewable Materials, 3(3), 244–258.

cc This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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