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House Built Out Of Albizia Wood Might Solve Multiple Sustainability Issues

Joey Valenti

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Architecture graduate Joey Valenti aims to solve several problems at once with his sustainable award-winning Doctor of Architecture project.

Entitled “Rescaling Urbanism,” the winner of a $10,000 UH President’s Green Project Implementation Award aims to create a self described alternative framework for construction and housing, as demonstrated through his first scale model home.

“I guess my idea was coalescing ideas of more contemporary ways of designing, of builiding, and ultimately fabricating structures right here locally in Hawaiʻi,” says Valenti.

The project addresses sustainability in multiple ways, including the proposed use of invasive Albizia wood to build the structures.

“I think there’s an edge with this idea in the fact that the invasive Albizia is a statewide issue or crisis that we’re dealing with,” says Valenti. “The state is having to put forward a lot of money to remove this material, but you don’t really see it going anywhere.”

Valenti’s project is also sustainable because of its lower cost design, including non-traditional windows and doorways, and its proposed use as easy-to- build transitional housing to address Hawaiʻi’s housing crisis.

”It questions all the issues we are facing with environmental change and social inequality and how we’re having this huge housing crisis that’s not going anywhere but up,” Valenti says.

He hopes to have a full-scale model built by the end of the year to truly prove his concept.

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Kudos Joey! This is the kind of imagination, initiative, and creativity we need more of among the paddlers of our wa’a! I was intrigued to note the similarity of the house structure to the hull of a ship, which led me to imagine that it must be quite wind-resistant in addition to its other virtues. I also wondered, though, whether the weedy Albizia provides wood of sufficient quality for construction.

  2. What a great idea! The lumber made from Albizia is an excellent building material. Joey Valanti’s design and construction methods idea are an efficient use of of material and construction time.

    I really hope this becomes a reality.

    Aloha, Allen Bosey

  3. To Joey and all who supported him to make this project happen: kudos and thanks! The structure is beautiful–flowing, open, and both modern and traditional. Using invasive wood that grows like weeds here in the islands, well–this is piece of genius. Please keep the community connected to this project and how people can link up with the design and materials in the future.

    I am looking to build a simple, sustainable and unique home on the Big Island and this option interests me.

  4. Consider that this wood is not very strong and that Albizia is susceptible to attack by the Formosan subterranean termites.

  5. Good work.
    I, too, wonder how the termite issue is resolved? and how/where the saw milling is to be done?
    Given there are solutions, we’d be pleased to host a scale model on our Puna farm, where there is lots of albizia.

  6. There are at least three species of Albizia trees common on the Hawaiian Islands. The Albizia is a genus of about 150 species.

    The common ones are Albizia chinensis, Albizia Falcataria moluccana and Albizia Lebbeck.

    The Albizia chinensis has the least strength of the three, about comparable to Western Red Cedar, Albizia Lebbeck is substantially stronger then Douglas fir. I don’t remember the specs off hand but Albizia Falcataria falls in between the other two.

    The strength isn’t really an issue as the design of the structure and sizing of structural components can address the structural capacity of the species used in any given application. Plus strength becomes relative when the material (wood)is abundant and doesn’t need to be transported long distances.

    As far as termite or other pest infestation, most any commonly used wood needs to be protected from termites and other pests, even fungus. There are a number of options for protecting the wood that are not damaging to the environment or to humans.

    The strength characteristics and insect resistance can easily be addressed in the design, construction and treatment of the material.

    I believe Joey is using intending to use non traditional designs, construction methods and by using Albizia, materials.

    One of the brilliant aspects of Joey’s concept is combining design, construction and materials to optimize the space (size of house) design and materials to create a beautiful house, using invasive plants with minimal environmental impact. At least that is my take based on what I understand. I think he’s really onto something!

    Aloha, Allen Bosely

  7. Albizia is totally mis-understood !!

    I’ve been making Albizia/epoxy laminated canoes, paddles and surfboard skins without fiberglass for over 20 years. The fiber is in the wood !!

    In Indo, it is used for plywood, furniture and interior trim.

    In farming, albizia is a legume, nitrogen fixing….the leaves and twigs decompose into great mulch…..

    Albizia……..perhaps worth another look ??

    Take a pest and make a product !!

  8. Great article and great thesis. I have three in my yard that need to go. I’m now going to use my small chainsaw mill and see how the planks work for garden beds.

  9. I love it! I teach a construction class at Waiawa prison and would be great to have your workforce primarily be released prisoners.

  10. This is a good idea of building sustainable structures. However, I would like to ask you to remember the disabled and make your design accessible. But that is easily addressed with ramps or site design.

  11. Would be interesting to explore the use of hand woodworking tools to build these structures. While it wouldn’t necessarily provide a cost effective methodology for Hawaii’s more urban environment, the acquisition or use of existing non-powered woodworking tool skills would likely provide cost-effective and more sustainable methods for more rural or impoverished locations where the use of powered tools pose significant obstacles.

  12. I feel the use of single and double curvature in the design is a component missing from the majority of new designs. Putting the arch back into architecture is an important element to establishing structural integrity. I applaud the repurposing of an invasive species and feel the same should be realized with waiawi/strawberry guava. As a designer and builder myself I have switched from wood to masonry as the primary building material for the house frame in the pursuit of extending the longevity of the structure. My concern and question about using Albezia is: “What is the lifespan of a home built with Albezia and how many years will it stand before needing repair/remodel/rebuild from time and humidity/moisture?” I would use Albezia for temporary structures and interior non-load bearing architectural elements. I don’t recommend the use of Albezia or any wood as the primary framing material in homes.

  13. Aloha Joey! Just saw this article and like your design and what you are doing with the albizia. A couple of my past homes have been featured on the Lake Tahoe Green Builders tour. I am currently in Puna to design and build a small, sustainable jungle house. You can see some of my past work on the “Artistic Architecture” page of my website, my original music is on the front page, my last band ‘Groove Foundry” and assorted adventures on other pages. This Puna project will be followed by a new publication called “Sustainable Aloha” soon to have their first issue out. It will be associated with the Aloha Aina group. I think it would be good to meet and share ideas!! smiles, Steve Zeztor.biz

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