2017 Progress Report: Husk-to-Home: A Sustainable Building Material for the PhilippinesEPA Grant Number: SV836952
Title: Husk-to-Home: A Sustainable Building Material for the Philippines
Investigators: Tam, Kawai , Rust, Michael , Mathaudhu, Suveen
Current Investigators: Tam, Kawai , Rust, Michael , Mathaudhu, Suveen , Truong, Brittany , Long-Le, Viet , Ibrahim, Pavly , Morrison, Christopher , Hwang, Edward
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Project Period: February 1, 2017 through January 31, 2019 (Extended to January 31, 2021)
Project Period Covered by this Report: February 1, 2017 through January 31,2018
Project Amount: $74,838
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2016) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment
In 2013, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol Island in Central Visayas, Philippines, destroying thousands of structures and displacing over 350,000 Boholanos. In response, the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA), a local non-governmental organization (NGO), built homes using coconut lumber, plywood, and bamboo. While these homes are only intended to be a temporary solution, they are unable to last for the projected 5 years. Instead, within two years of being built, IDEA’s homes are deemed uninhabitable due to extensive termite damage. Termites pose a great threat to the 12′ × 16′ coconut wood homes, and rebuilding them every few years puts a strain on materials, workers, and their limited budget. Realizing the need for an inexpensive, sustainable, structurally-sound, and termite resistant building material, IDEA reached out to our design team to find a solution.
As the seventh largest rice-producing country in the world, the Philippines generates an abundance of rice husk, a termite resistant waste product from the rice milling process that is incinerated once discarded. Husk-to-Home intends to capitalize on this termite resistance and design a rice husk composite board with properties relevant to the Philippines’ needs: lightweight boards with strength and stiffness that will prevent side-swaying and resist forces due to earthquakes; water resistivity which will help structures withstand humidity and tropical storms; and termite resistance that will keep structures durable and free of pests. Husk-to-Home plans to innovate rice husk composite boards by using inexpensive, accessible materials, minimal machinery, and a simple production process.
Husk-to-Home is taking on the challenge of creating a durable, and cost-effective building material made from major waste products such as thermoplastics, rice husks, and rice straw. This project will be done in two phases. The project will initially target this material for use as house siding in the form of boards. In comparison to fiber cement siding and vinyl siding, this board is competitive in both its strength and its cost-to-own price for the southeastern United States market. By initially commercializing the material as siding, Husk-to-Home can build up both credibility and initial funding as a corporation, in order to expand the material to numerous load-bearing applications. The ultimate goal of Husk-to-Home is to become a replacement to wood as a building material.
In the second phase, after demonstrating the proof-of-concept viability in the Southeastern United States as siding, Husk-to-Home aims to expand into the multi-functional building material sector that can be utilized by poor communities both in the United States and internationally. Once established as a successful corporation, a non-profit will also be created in order to have further impact. Using the material, aid will be given to rebuilding projects for scenarios such as natural disasters, and for communities in need. A partnership with Habitats for Humanity will be established to achieve this goal.
Bench scale production of Husk-to-Home’s material has continued along with in-house and out-sourced testing to determine the validity of the product. The fiber plastic composite (FPC) boards that were designed and optimized were evaluated for mechanical properties by conducting compression tests and preliminary screw tests, in addition to the three-point bend test for flexural strengths. The current recipe FPC board can be seen in Figure 1. Compression tests were performed on 2′′ × 1′′ × 0.5′′ board samples using an Instron 5969 mechanical tester in accordance to ASTM standards. Water absorption testing was also performed with reference to ASTM standards and methods, a 24-hour soak test. All tests were performed at the University of California, Riverside. Furthermore, an independent testing lab, RADCO has conducted accelerated aging tests on our prototype siding. Here, ASTM Standards require that the specimens withstand harsh environments simulated by exposure to steam, freezing temperatures, and submersion into water. RADCO concluded that the test specimens did not show any signs of disintegration, confirming that it was able to withstand at least 25 years of simulated weathering under intense conditions.
Further investigation into the recyclability of the board has also been performed. With the use of a band saw available to UCR’s Mechanical Engineering Department, boards have been cut into thin slices and grinded down using a small in-house grinder. By the end of May 2018, a proof-of-concept 100% recycled board will be created and tested similarly to original boards. The conclusion of this testing will possibly provide Husk-to-Home a stronger claim for patentable technology. Examples of the cut boards used in this investigation are shown in Figure 2. More testing that will be performed in the upcoming year are in-house mold testing and out-sourced fire testing.
In the exploration of more applications for the Husk-to-Home FPC material, a 1/8" thick mold has been created to test the strengths and weaknesses of multi-layered or multi ply boards. Testing is currently ongoing to understand if multi ply boards can minimize the effects of point defects and increase the strength compared to an individual board. With the help of Enrique Uribe, a construction expert and entrepreneur, Husk-to-Home is looking into more markets with these multi-layer boards for products like skateboards and other thin wood products.
The current 2017-2018 team has also been focused on the commercialization of the board as a house siding in fulfillment of the initial phase for introducing the material to market. With the addition of a business administration undergraduate, the board’s marketability and manufacturing costs have been thoroughly considered. Husk-to-Home’s particle board is currently made with a hot press which can only produce 9" x9" boards. The typical siding panel is approximately 6" x 5"x15’. A key indication of success will be the creation and mass manufacturing of siding panels with our recipe. The first step in the development of a marketable product will be to test Husk-to-Home’s FPC board mixture in the extrusion process. Extrusion will enable the mixture to be formed into the required dimensions as well as create a wood grain texture. The wood-like look created will be much more aesthetically pleasing. The team has been in contact with an extruder supplier, Davis Standard. Davis Standard has required 200 pounds of material from Husk-to-Home in order to attempt extrusion with one of their machines. Before extrusion is a possibility, Husk-to-Home will need enough materials and designated time to prepare enough mixture. Once the extrusion testing can be confirmed as viable, Husk-to-Home will have secured a realistic means of mass production.
Aside from a viable manufacturing process, Husk-to-Home will also need to prove sustainability in the southeastern siding market. One year after the extrusion process is confirmed, Husk-to-Home aspires to establish ourselves in one home in the southeast and track the durability of the product on the home while moving forward. The first home will be Husk-to-Home’s proof of product viability. By installing our siding on a home subject to harsh weather conditions, the team will be able to prove the durability and sustainability that Husk-to-Home’s siding has in comparison to competitors. The siding market will establish Husk-to-Home in the construction and materials industry. It will provide a reference point of sustainability and viability in the market. Once established, Husk-to-Home will be able to pivot into broader aspects of homes and buildings.
As Husk-to-Home aspires to work towards wood substitution, the team hopes success in the siding industry will provide the credibility to adapt our material to greater needs of consumers. Once successful in creating a wood standardized product, Husk-to-Home will begin establishing itself in the furniture industry. Potential partnership with Habitat for Humanity will provide philanthropic opportunities for Husk-to-Home products. Philanthropy will allow the team to reach those with specific needs that can only be met with this innovation while simultaneously speeding up the process of word-of-mouth marketing for the business. Through a partnership with a non-profit, Husk-to-Home will be able to provide quick assistance with the sustainable, adaptable, and durable material wherever it is needed while proving the quality to the rest of the world.
The current team’s end goals are to be a licensed corporation with a patentable technology for legitimacy and to have a proof-of-concept for the extrusion of the current board as a house siding. This will be facilitated through research into the business and economics aspects of a company, specifically to be performed by the new business administration team member. A corporate and patent lawyer will be contacted to prepare appropriate paperwork for Husk-to-Home to begin commercialization by the end of 2018. The 200-pound mix required by the aforementioned extrusion company, Davis Standard, will be prepared and sent by the end of June 2018. Meanwhile, continual research and development of the board for higher compressive strength will be performed, as Husk-to-Home plans to become a load-bearing material in the future.