An engineer in Algeria has developed an ingenious new house building technique on a desert refugee camp. He wanted to build a home for his grandmother that would beat the heat and sandstorms, and plastic bottles were readily available. Filled with sand and straw and encased into the walls, the bottles make a sturdy and weatherproof shelter. It’s also insulated, and the bottle house is five degrees cooler than its neighbours.
Six thousand discarded bottles are used in each new home, which is useful in itself. The refugee camps have been in place for 40 years, and no recycling facilities have ever been provided. There are huge piles of them to use up, helping to keep waste plastic out of the natural environment.
The bottle house is different to traditional buildings in the region, and was met with some initial scepticism. But it proved more resilient to rain than the usual adobe walls. The unfamiliar round shape deflects sandstorms better. Others have begun to take notice, and the UNHCR was so struck with this design that it funded a pilot project to build 25 more bottle houses on other refugee camps, and pass on the techniques.
So the building of the week for this week is innovation by and for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, and that re-uses plastic waste as an appropriate technology. Here’s a short BBC piece on the bottle house: