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Colombians Are Building Houses Made of Wasted Plastic Shaped into Bricks
by Joao Freitas / Jul 14, 2016
“A group of Colombians are transforming the serious problem of pollution by using plastic waste—and the Lego building model—as a solution for the thousands of people without houses. The Bogota-based company, Conceptos Plasticos, seeks to reverse the damage that plastic causes to the planet and use it to benefit those most in need. The initiative was born out of Colombian musician Fernando Llanos’s need to build his own house in a difficult-to-access area in the center of the country. Subsequently, this idea became architect Oscar Mendez’s graduation thesis.
After several years of investigation, Mendez materialized a modular brick made of all types of processed, discarded plastic. The system works like Lego and is adaptable to all types of terrain and any climate. “It has a social impact because in Latin America the housing shortage is terrible,” says Mendez, the owner of the company. “Forty percent of people living in Africa, Asia and Latin America do not have a house.” He also detailed the environmental and economic importance of using this type of waste to build modular homes. “In Bogota alone, approximately 750 tons of plastic waste is thrown into the landfill site, of which only 100 are being recycled. We are making 100 homes out of the plastic in Dona Juana (the city’s landfill site), giving value to something that has no market.”
Conceptos Plasticos’s model home is 40 square meters divided into two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen, and can be put together in only five days by four people who need no previous building experience. The houses are assembled without using any type of adhesive. This makes them portable houses that can be disassembled easily in order to transport and reassemble them.
When discussing the cost of making the houses, Mendez said they are a lot more economical than a house built from traditional materials. “We don’t charge per square meter built, but by kilogram (of plastic) processed,” said Mendez. One 40-square meter home costs approximately $130 per square meter built. That’s $5200.”
“…This innovative approach helped Conceptos Plásticos win $300,000 in funding this week at the annual The Venture competition held in New York City. The contest, launched by whiskey brand Chivas Regal in 2014, is a global search to find entrepreneurs with ideas to help improve society. Conceptos Plásticos’ production process, which was developed in 2014, involves melting plastic waste and pouring it into a mold to produce blocks that connect together like Lego pieces. This allows communities to physically connect the walls of houses together.
Mendez said a one-family home, with space for about four people, takes no construction experience to put together and only about five days to build. Meanwhile, a shelter for 14 families — which can house 15 people — takes about 10 days to build (and also doesn’t require construction experience). Because the bricks easily lock together, the assembly process requires only a hammer to attach them.
In addition, the recycled bricks are about 20% – 40% cheaper than using traditional cement and concrete to make houses. In two years, Conceptos Plásticos has already helped construct 10 houses and one temporary shelter that houses 42 families. In total, the startup has also recycled more than 200 tons of plastic. Mendez said the $300,000 will be used to help Conceptos Plásticos expand the program to other areas across Central America, especially in regions with housing shortages…”
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