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@Work: Bamboo Island Homes

Nov. 23, 2008 — When anyone asks Diane Butler what line of work she is in, she tells them she's a photographer and an entrepreneur.
"I like to go in and start a business, make it a success and then step back and let someone else run it," Butler says.
An example is Twin City Coffeehouse and Gallery in Christiansted, which Butler and her partner, Theresa Calpano-Butler, started three years ago. Going into its fourth year, it is now managed and run solely by Calpano-Butler. The coffeehouse recently moved from Sunday Market Square to 1 Company St.
Butler also has a photography print business. A Chicago native, photography was her reason for moving to St. Croix in 1990. Nine years ago she created the St. Croix Explorer Map, which she says she will always oversee. She has a line of post cards, a calendar and engagement books, and has recently printed a poster of Doors of St. Croix.
"The key is to find a niche and fill it," Butler says.
Butler's latest enterprise is the distribution and sales of affordable, green, prefabricated bamboo homes.
"Low and moderate income housing is something St. Croix is in need of," Butler says. "St Thomas and St. John are in need of these homes, too, with the cost of construction there close to $400 a square foot. Cost of labor is low, too, since the houses are assembled in three to seven days, depending on the size of the home."
Butler is vice president of Caribbean sales and development for Bamboo Island Homes. She has partnered with Elizabeth Wachtmeister, a friend in Boston, Mass.
Wachtmeister and Butler consulted together on property development with homes made as green as possible. They researched and came up with Bamboo Technologies in Vietnam. They went to Hawaii to do more research on the actual homes, and immersed themselves in the houses and job sites.
"The only thing owners said negative about the houses was people stop too often to look at them," Butler says. "And the best thing they said about them is they are affordable and green."
And in the islands, of course, one has to wonder how they stand up to hurricanes.
"They withstand 145 mph-plus winds," Butler says. "We have a hurricane-strong package that has bigger connectors and bolts for the foundation and roof."
The connectors are structural stainless steel connectors and bolts inside the bamboo poles. According to the company's website, bamboo is one of the strongest building materials available.
There are all sorts of sizes and architectural plans to choose from. The order is placed with a deposit, fabrication is done and shipped, with delivery in six months from the initial order to arrival.
While waiting for the delivery, Butler says, Department of Natural Resources permits are obtained, land is cleared and foundations and cisterns are put in.
"The V.I. fire department was very pleased with the bamboo, since it smolders and puts itself out," Butler says.
Plumbing and electrical fixtures aren't included. Windows and roofing may be bought locally, but Butler recommends the doors made at Bamboo Technologies.
Packages of seven prefab homes are on their way to St. Croix, where they will be assembled on Cane Bay, Blue Mountain and Salt River. The Salt River home is going to be totally green, with features such as a solar pool pump and low-flush toilet. Tents will be set up at a construction site for viewing, with completion set for February.
Visit bambooislandhome.com for more information, or call 718-5128.
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Nov. 23, 2008 -- When anyone asks Diane Butler what line of work she is in, she tells them she's a photographer and an entrepreneur.
"I like to go in and start a business, make it a success and then step back and let someone else run it," Butler says.
An example is Twin City Coffeehouse and Gallery in Christiansted, which Butler and her partner, Theresa Calpano-Butler, started three years ago. Going into its fourth year, it is now managed and run solely by Calpano-Butler. The coffeehouse recently moved from Sunday Market Square to 1 Company St.
Butler also has a photography print business. A Chicago native, photography was her reason for moving to St. Croix in 1990. Nine years ago she created the St. Croix Explorer Map, which she says she will always oversee. She has a line of post cards, a calendar and engagement books, and has recently printed a poster of Doors of St. Croix.
"The key is to find a niche and fill it," Butler says.
Butler's latest enterprise is the distribution and sales of affordable, green, prefabricated bamboo homes.
"Low and moderate income housing is something St. Croix is in need of," Butler says. "St Thomas and St. John are in need of these homes, too, with the cost of construction there close to $400 a square foot. Cost of labor is low, too, since the houses are assembled in three to seven days, depending on the size of the home."
Butler is vice president of Caribbean sales and development for Bamboo Island Homes. She has partnered with Elizabeth Wachtmeister, a friend in Boston, Mass.
Wachtmeister and Butler consulted together on property development with homes made as green as possible. They researched and came up with Bamboo Technologies in Vietnam. They went to Hawaii to do more research on the actual homes, and immersed themselves in the houses and job sites.
"The only thing owners said negative about the houses was people stop too often to look at them," Butler says. "And the best thing they said about them is they are affordable and green."
And in the islands, of course, one has to wonder how they stand up to hurricanes.
"They withstand 145 mph-plus winds," Butler says. "We have a hurricane-strong package that has bigger connectors and bolts for the foundation and roof."
The connectors are structural stainless steel connectors and bolts inside the bamboo poles. According to the company's website, bamboo is one of the strongest building materials available.
There are all sorts of sizes and architectural plans to choose from. The order is placed with a deposit, fabrication is done and shipped, with delivery in six months from the initial order to arrival.
While waiting for the delivery, Butler says, Department of Natural Resources permits are obtained, land is cleared and foundations and cisterns are put in.
"The V.I. fire department was very pleased with the bamboo, since it smolders and puts itself out," Butler says.
Plumbing and electrical fixtures aren't included. Windows and roofing may be bought locally, but Butler recommends the doors made at Bamboo Technologies.
Packages of seven prefab homes are on their way to St. Croix, where they will be assembled on Cane Bay, Blue Mountain and Salt River. The Salt River home is going to be totally green, with features such as a solar pool pump and low-flush toilet. Tents will be set up at a construction site for viewing, with completion set for February.
Visit bambooislandhome.com for more information, or call 718-5128.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.