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At Home in Napa Valley: The benefits of building with bamboo

In a recent conversation with Pam Starr, noted winemaker for Crocker & Starr, she mentioned that she and her husband, Norm Larsen, had designed and built their new home with bamboo.

Pam Starr and Norman Larsen decided for both environmental and aesthetic reasons to build their new home of bamboo. | Photo by Marissa Carlisle

In a recent conversation with Pam Starr, noted winemaker for Crocker & Starr, she mentioned that she and her husband, Norm Larsen, had designed and built their new home with bamboo. 

It certainly presented as an intriguing idea; little did I know about the stunning result. When you think of bamboo, the first idea that comes to mind might suggest a bamboo hut on a Pacific Island, romantic but not practical in the Napa Valley. When you drive up the steep driveway to beautiful home with expansive views of the Napa Valley, it becomes quite clear that the initial mindset is far from the reality.

You might ask: why bamboo? The reasons are many, especially if you are mindful of your carbon footprint. Unlike trees, bamboo reaches maturity in just three to five years, making it a renewal resource with minimal environmental impact. Using bamboo as a construction material takes pressure off the harvesting of forests for lumber, affecting the biodiversity of those forests. Bamboo also stores significant amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change mitigation. 

Then the next question would be, is it durable for our various environmental conditions, like earthquakes? Bamboo has a high tensile strength comparable to steel, making it suitable for structural applications like columns. And despite its strength, bamboo is lighter than many traditional building materials, reducing transportation costs and construction complexity. 

Especially significant here in California, bamboo’s flexibility allows it to bend and sway during earthquakes and high wind events, making it a more resilient building material than concrete or brick. Another plus in our fire hazardous zone is that certain types of bamboo have natural fire-retardant properties. It also is not as susceptible to pests like termites, dry rot and other issues that are common in many homes.

Bamboo effectively absorbs sound, creating quieter and more comfortable living spaces. Depending on the application and location, bamboo can be a cost-competitive alternative to other building materials.

Starr and Larsen enlisted the BamCore team with a head office in Windsor, California, to take them through the process and multiple advantages of using bamboo in the construction of their beautiful home. BamCore’s patent-pending technology, which allows prefabrication off-site, delivers results in a quicker time frame from design to construction.

Sitting on their balcony sipping Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc, enjoying the view in a house made from bamboo is a phenomenal moment in an environmentally innovative design.

“It really is about building better, healthier and more sustainably than conventional building. I believe it should be the new standard in home construction” Pam Starr commented, reinforcing her happiness in the end result of their forever home.

Billa Donaldson is Realtor with Engel & Völkers Napa Valley contact her at billa.donaldson@evrealestate.com.

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