Following the Western Sahara War which happened more than four decades ago, many refugees have found home in the remote desert of southwest Algeria. Now, there are still about 90,000 Sahrawi people living in five camps near the Algerian town of Tindouf, but in tents and mud-brick houses. These shelters are not really ideal for the harsh Saharan climate.
So one engineer, whose crippled grandmother is one of the refugees, have found a solution: build houses out of discarded plastic bottles.
Tateh Lehbib Breica grew up in Awserd camp, and lived the housing problem almost his entire life. He specializes in energy efficiency with a master’s degree at a Spanish university.
Using his expertise, he proposed at first to use discarded bottles for a roof garden. But eventually this design wasn’t proven to be effective as the roof’s circular form presented construction challenges.
“I asked myself ‘What can I do with these?’” he said. “I remembered a documentary I had seen… on building using plastic bottles, and thought, ‘Why not try that?’”
And he did. Instead of throwing out the discarded plastic bottles he had already collected, he made use of them for building walls.
By filling the bottles with sand and by laying them side by side like bricks, Tateh found that he could build a sturdy house. It is circular in shape, which protects against driving winds, with the bottle walls providing protection against the rain.
The exterior is finished with cement and limestone, later painted with white to reflect the sun’s rays and keep indoor temperatures cool.
Each house uses about 6,000 plastic bottles. Total cost for the finished house is around US$270, a quarter of the cost of a mud-brick house. Construction can be finished in as little as one week.
Twenty-five houses have been built so far, with the first one made for Tateh’s grandmother who has a difficulty walking. Other residents who occupied the rest of the plastic bottle houses are those considered most vulnerable among the refugees.
His project has been backed by the UNHCR Innovation Fund.
Sources: World Economic Forum