Santa Clara University


Mark Aschheim

Civil Engineering Professor Mark Aschheim pioneered the use of bamboo in structural I beams as a rapidly renewable alternative to wood and steel. Because civil works construction consumes the largest volume of materials in the United States, and because the production of Portland cement causes about 8% of domestic and global CO2 emissions, Professor Mark Aschheim addresses these issues in the Civil Engineering Materials course, CENG 115. Students gain experience with making high volume fly ash concrete in the lab, while lectures address global warming, the meaning of the term "sustainability," metrics of sustainability, and life cycle analysis. Impacts of alternative materials are examined quantitatively. The course provides a basis for engineers to apply the “calculus” of sustainability in their design process.

Through his research activity, Aschheim and his students have pioneered the use of bamboo in structural I beams as an alternative to joists made of wood and steel. He began working with bamboo because of its high strength and stiffness and rapid renewability relative to other materials. Testing and approval led to the bamboo I beams being incorporated into the construction of SCU's entry into the U.S. Department of Energy's 2007 Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, DC, and this innovation helped the team achieve a third-place finish!

Aschheim is now leading his student researchers in working with straw board materials formed entirely from agricultural waste products. He is exploring using the energy-recovery process of anaerobic digestion to produce structurally sound building materials.

Professor Aschheim publishes materials on sustainable, earthquake-resistant construction and sustainable structural materials, including articles and chapters in books on straw bale construction and confined masonry construction.

Visit Prof. Aschheim's faculty page.