Feb 8, 2023 - News

Look inside: D.C.'s first bamboo building

The outside of BLDUS' Grass House made of bamboo.
Are bamboo homes the future of construction? Photo: Ty Cole

Just across from Frederick Douglass’ historic Anacostia home sits a small house with a modern design. You wouldn’t guess it, but this house made history in its own right, as it’s made of bamboo.  

Why it matters: The Grass House, built in 2019 by Anacostia-based architecture and development company BLDUS, is the first code-compliant bamboo building on the East Coast. As the planet continues to feel the impacts of climate change, finding environmentally friendly building solutions could solve some big problems.

State of play: BLDUS utilizes materials like bamboo and sheep's wool to create homes that are more energy efficient (which means lower utility bills) and environmentally friendly.

Company co-founder Jack Becker tells Axios that bamboo, in the form of BamCore structural plywood panels, is faster to use and comparable in price to status quo materials.

  • Unlike other insulation materials, sheep's wool doesn’t absorb water, BLDUS co-founder Andrew Linn tells Axios, eliminating mold and mildew and leading to healthier homes.

Yes, but: Bamboo and other similar materials haven’t been widely embraced in the construction industry partially because traditional materials are easier to find at major suppliers such as Home Depot and Lowe's. 

A staircase inside the Grass House.
A look inside the Grass House. Photo: Ty Cole

Zoom in: Since Grass House, which is used as BLDUS' office, the company has built one other bamboo structure in D.C. and has two more scheduled to be completed this year. 

  • Their past projects have also used construction materials such as cork, bark, and willow.

BLDUS co-founder Andrew Linn likens the move toward eco-friendly materials in the construction industry to the farm-to-table movement – he calls it farm-to-shelter.

What’s next: BLDUS wants to use bamboo in larger-scale, multi-family projects, including in public housing.

A dining area inside the Grass House.
Dining area inside the Grass House. Photo: Ty Cole
A desk area inside the Grass House.
An office area inside the house. Photo: Ty Cole

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