Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Rice Husk: A Sustainable Building Material for the Philippines

EPA Grant Number: SU836126
Title: Rice Husk: A Sustainable Building Material for the Philippines
Investigators: Tam, Kawai
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment


In 2013, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the central Philippine island of Bohol, destroying thousands of structures and displacing nearly 350,000 Filipinos. In response, the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA), a non-governmental organization, employed several teams to build temporary homes using coconut wood boards; however, once built, the homes were soon deemed uninhabitable due to extensive termite damage and only lasted two years. IDEA identified their need for economical and sustainable building materials, and they contacted our design team to find a reliable solution. As the seventh largest rice-producing country in the world, the Philippines generates an abundance of rice husk and rice straw waste, both of which are termite-resistant. Our team, Husk-to-Home, intends to capitalize on the termite-resistant characteristic of rice waste materials and design a particleboard that is lightweight, water-resistant, and of comparable strength to a commercially available medium-density particleboard. Although rice husk particleboards have previously been researched, Husk-to-Home plans to innovate them by using a simple production process, inexpensive and accessible materials, and minimal machinery. The project’s mission is to create a proof of concept building material, composed of rice husks and an innovative binding material, to construct durable homes for the Filipino community.


In collaboration with IDEA and the University of California, Riverside’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Husk-to-Home will create a sustainable building material by compressing rice husks and a binding material, such as a cornstarch-tannin adhesive or plastic. This multidisciplinary effort will provide a solid pathway towards successful implementation of our final product. The particleboard will possess qualities relevant to the Philippines’ needs: lightweight boards with high strength will help reduce earthquake loads; water-resistivity will help structures withstand humid environments and frequent tropical storms; and termite-resistance will keep structures safe and long-lasting.

Expected Results:

The project’s outcome will be an environmentally-friendly particleboard, composed of rice husks and a formaldehyde-free binding material, used to build durable homes in the Philippines. In collaboration with the departments of entomology, business, and chemical, environmental, materials science, and mechanical engineering, various mixtures will be investigated to optimize the board’s mechanical strength, water-resistivity, termite-resistance, and marketability. The final product can then be assessed as suitable or unsuitable towards the Philippine relief effort. In addition to relief shelters, the product will possess increased marketability in other countries as an inexpensive, formaldehyde-free building material.

Supplemental Keywords:

Green engineering, shelter, eco-friendly, rice husk, plastic, formaldehyde-free, tannin, compressibility, tensile strength, machinability, humidity, termites, particleboard, building material, cost-efficient, water-resistant