Design class reaches out to community

Robert Barnstone with one

of the nine doghouses being built and

donated for Latah County Humane Society

PULLMAN – Design Studio 303, a class taught by professor Robert Barnstone, is designing and constructing three projects that will help the WSU community.

The first is for a large canopy type structure located near the Pullman softball field – known as Koppel farm; the second a series of quadraplex dog kennels for the Latah Humane society; and another is the conversion of a shipping container into a club house for the WSU Sailing Team.

All of these projects were done in conjunction with WSU’s Centre for Civic Engagement. 

“The reason for these projects,” Barnstone said, “is to prove to the students that even in a period of economic downturn there are still great opportunities and that if you put your mind to it you can accomplish some very interesting things.”

The shipping container Design Studio 303 students have converted into a clubhouse for the WSU Sailing Team

Below is an earlier article from fall 2008 about Barnstone’s work
Cement…a silver bullet?
By Evan Epstein, College of Engineering and Architecture
When Associate Architecture Professor Robert Barnstone took a sabbatical at the Technical University of Delft (Netherlands), he didn’t know he would be working with cement – he was going to work with cardboard, trying to find uses for it in the building industry for emergency housing.
“Cardboard has some fairly limited properties and I wanted to find a way to enhance the properties of cardboard in a sustainable way,” he said.  “We wanted to make the cardboard waterproof, fireproof and structurally sound.”
After exploring their possibilities, Barnstone and his research team found what they were looking for in magnesium /phosphate ceramic cements.  Ceramic cements are primarily made by combining phosphate, a soil fertilizer, with food grade magnesium oxide, fly ash, and glass fiber for flexible and tensile strength. 
Once mixed, these cements are akin to a mineral based epoxy adhesive. They chemically bond to most materials, giving them tremendous adhesion properties.  They are also waterproof but unlike organic compounds, they are non-toxic, extremely fireproof and have three times the compression strength of a typical Portland cement.  Barnstone then tested the ceramic to make stressed skin panels and as a spray on skin onto a cardboard house.
“This new family of cements and mineral coatings are possibly the silver bullet that the sustainable building movement has been seeking,” said Barnstone.  “They improve most of the important qualities of performance for a host of new products in the sustainable building field.” 
Upon returning to the U.S, Barnstone found a group of people and companies interested in ceramic cements and quickly set out to organize a ceramic cement workshop and seminar with speakers from around the country.  It quickly became apparent that to promote these new products however, that he would need to build a structure and publish the results.  He didn’t have to look too far – the WSU sailing club was in need of a new storage facility. 
Barnstone and his students found an old shipping container at WSU salvage to use as a basic frame and foundation for the structure.  Using found lumber and old glue laminates they built a second floor on the container and roofed it and are now working on making a fiber cement board for the exterior made from ceramic cement, fiber recycled form carpet and wood fiber. 
Barnstone said new developments by a small group of companies and research institutions have started to provide the current generation of designers and engineers an important set of tools for new sustainable building products, emergency housing, highway repair and military applications and ceramic cement plays a vital role. 
Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory are also exploring chemically bonded ceramics for the containment of nuclear waste. These same cements can also be used as a binder for wood, paper or other waste materials.
Like fired, or sintered ceramics, ceramic cements can be formed into roofing tile, wall tile and floor tile.  Barnstone and his research associates have also developed a number of architectural products using paper and ceramic cement including spun tubes that could be used as columns or beams and floor and wall systems and his enthusiasm does not stop there: “This research if successful could completely change the methods and the products we build with,” he said.  “This material could some day replace plastic for injection molding, siding, bricks block and pavement!”