Friday, April 12, 2013

Turning plastic to plus

Two City-based entrepreneurs have come up with a sol­u­tion to reuse plastic bottles as an alternative to bricks in rural house construction.

The average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take some bottles 1,000 years to biodegrade! Ninety per cent of bo­ttles are not even recycled and are simply thrown around, which is not only cau­sing environmental hazards but also indirectly responsible for various problems like clogging of drains. Bottles made with Po­ly­ethylene Tereph­thalate (PET or PETE) will never biodegrade.

To find a solution to this growing problem, City-based entrepreneurs; Ar­u­na Kappagantula and her husband Prashant Lingam, foun­ders of Bamboo House India (BHI), have come up with a sol­u­tion to reuse these plastic bottles as an alternative to bricks in rural house construction. The duo, known for th­eir eco-friendly and social innovations such as bamboo structures, wants to prove that bottle can be alternative for brick.

“A 225sqft house of 15ft x 15ft size was constructed with around 4,000 bottles in 15 days at a cost of `65,000. We procured these bottles from scrap dealers in for a rupee initially, and even spend `3-4 per bottle towards the end due to scarcity of bottles, says Prashant.

Explaining the costs involved, he said, “The same house can be constructed at a cost of `35,000-`50,000 based on the availability of resources in villages and can sustain for at least 30 years like any other house. We took this as an experiment and constructed the house to show this will be a feasible and viable alternative. With abundance of mud, cow dung, low cost labour and local sourcing of bottles, this method can definitely evolve as affordable housing.”

The basic skeleton was built with bamboo, and entire walling was done with vertical and horizontal placement of bottles with mud for thermal insulation and strength and plastering was done with mud and cow dung with final coat of cement plaster.

“A plastic bottle costs a rupee, whereas each cement brick costs around `10 and each red brick costs around `5 apart from high consumption of cement. The amount of heat bricks generate is higher. With the heavy usage of mud and cow dung, the house has a natural cooling effect and fan is not required in non-summer days,” he explains.

“In terms of strength, performance is equal to bricks and may be better. We have requested IIT Delhi for further testing of this process and we will be shortly sending bottle wall panels for testing to the campus to further refine the process,” says Prashant.

“Usage of plastic bottles in construction is practiced globally. Schools and houses are constructed with these bottles in Africa. In India, nothing much happened on this front. Earlier, there were two similar experiments as part of education and NGO initiatives in the country. However, nobody took this an alternative for mainstream rural housing.

“Initially people might have apprehension about building bamboo and bottle houses, but we are sure that with time this concept will surely catch up.

BHI wants to substitute bricks with bottles for our current eco-friendly green house orders like guest houses, pent houses and restaurants. It also has plans to help villagers of Rampachodavaram (agency area) with the know how and construction of bottle-bamboo houses.

When asked about practicing it in to mainstream apartment constructions, he said, “It is not bricks but beams and columns take the weight of the house. Plastic bottle walls can be confidently integrated especially where the wall acts as a partition, such as bathroom walls.

“There is a desperate need for government bodies to test and validate these methods by which this can taken in to a larger scale for not only affordable but also for sustainable eco-friendly housing,” says Prashant. BHI has also plans to promote the concept among schools and colleges to make the next generation think beyond bricks and cement.

  1. Low cost
  2. Non-Brittle – Unlike bricks
  3. Absorbs abrupt shock loads
  4. Bio climatic
  5. Re-usable
  6. Less construction material
  7. Easy to build
  8. Green Construction