DARE to dream...

New limits of sustainable design realised in Nigeria's Plastic Bottle House by DARE

by Sian 10 November 2011 Sustainable Buildings
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    One person's trash is another person’s building material...or so it would seem. In the village of Sabon Yelwa the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) has instigated an ingenious scheme to transform the region’s litter problem into a positive future for the community through the construction of new residences.

    This pilot project in headed by the NGO DARE with help from London-based organisation Africa Community Trust, and not only looks to find a sustainable alternative to Nigeria’s immense housing shortage but provide street children with a stable job and a place at the next building project in planning - a local school. Teenagers have been working on the construction project as a first step into full time employment and returning to education.

    The construction process involves taking used plastic bottles, filling them with sand and reattaching the caps before stacking sideways one on top of the other and securing with layers of mud. Concrete foundations provide a solid base for the residence and reams of brightly coloured string lend a jovial touch to the inside walls.

    According to Trade Invest Nigeria the area of Lagos alone produces 9,000 tonnes of waste each day and with a population density of 4,193 people per sq km and a projected population of 25.4 million by 2015, the area’s waste issues are becoming ever-more menacing. Each plastic drinks bottle takes on average 450 years to biodegrade and once filled with sand creates a sustainable, eco-friendly and bullet-proof building block that can be used in a variety of architectural designs.

    These alternative bricks are perfectly suited to Nigeria’s intensely hot climate as the sand provides an insulating layer, keeping room temperatures low and creating a fireproof and earthquake-resistant wall. Yahaya Ahmed is heading the project for DARE and explains: “Compacted sand inside a bottle is nearly 20 times stronger than bricks. We are even intending to build a three-storey building.”

    This green technique has raised concerns in some over enhanced costs for other building projects. Lagos-based mason Mumuni Oladele told the BBC: “My fear is that this building method will increase the demand for sand and even lead to an increase in the price of sand. At the moment people looking for sand to build houses dig everywhere to get the sand. You can imagine what will happen when the demand for sand goes up to build bottle houses.”

    Across the world complex sustainable technologies are being researched to provide futuristic solutions to the common problem of excess waste. What DARE and the Africa Community Trust are realising in Nigeria is an effective and relatively inexpensive answer to this ongoing issue, recycling basic materials into a valuable and longstanding community resource.

    Sian Disson
    News Editor

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