We take a look at plastic as a construction material.
An unusual piece of art by Bruce Munro has turned a Wiltshire hill into a giant breast, which will light up at night to raise awareness of cancer. Made from 2,730 plastic bottles and tiny lights, the 16ft high and ten feet wide orb glows in blue and pink under the dark sky.
The biomes at The Eden Project, meanwhile, feature hexagonal cushions over the steel structure that trap air between two layers of ETFE (short for ethylene tetrafluoroethylene – a fluorine based plastic), and act as a thermal blanket.
Employing a similar concept, Beijing National Aquatics Center in China – better known as the Water Cube – comprises a steel space frame, and is the largest ETFE clad structure in the world with over 100,000 m² of ETFE pillows that are only 0.2 mm (1/125 of an inch) thick. Using the Weaire–Phelan geometry, the Water Cube’s exterior cladding is made of 4,000 ETFE bubbles, some as large as 9.14 metres (30.0 ft) across, with seven different sizes for the roof and 15 for the walls.
Although it existed but briefly, James May’s full sized, two-storey Lego house, constructed for a TV series in 2009, included a working toilet, hot shower and a very uncomfortable bed; using 3.3million plastic bricks. The Lego house built by 1,000 volunteers for BBC Two show, Toy Stories, was demolished later that year and the bricks donated to charity.
Very much a recycled landmark, the new Solar Revolution Pavilion in Manilla was designed in partnership with Stephen Lamb, founder of South Africa based green design firm, Touching the Earth Lightly. The Solar Revolution Pavilion is a 200 sq metre, six-metre high structure built of 1,600 plastic vegetable crates containing reused plastic bottles.
At number six, The EcoARK Pavilion in Taiwan is the world’s first fully functional, public structure made of 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles. It weighs 50 percent less than a conventional building, yet it is strong enough to withstand the forces of nature, including fire. Interestingly, recycling 1,5000,000 plastic bottles can save enough energy to power a 60 watt light bulb for 73 years, or a CFL for 15,184 years.
Ecoparque El Zamorano, Honduras was constructed with 8,000 bottles: amazingly, the grassy green roof can weigh 30 tons when wet and has been supported by the walls without any extra reinforcement. It is apparently the first house in the world made from PET bottles without using cement in the walls.
Then in the village of Yelwa, Nigeria, 25 houses have been built with bottles packed with sand, which are placed on their side, one on top of the other and bound together with mud. Each house – with one bedroom, living room, bathroom, toilet and kitchen – uses an estimated 7,800 plastic bottles.
Yahaya Ahmed of Nigeria’s Development Association for Renewable Energies, estimates that a bottle house will cost one third of what a similar house made of concrete and bricks costs. They are also ideally suited to the hot Nigerian climate because the sand insulates them from the sun’s heat, helping to keep room temperatures low. And because of the compact sand, they are bulletproof – which may also prove another attraction in more insecure parts of the north.
Printing your own smartphone covers, jewellery and even replacement parts for your broken washing machine at home just became a cheaper reality. Electronics store Maplin has become the first major high-street retailer in the UK to sell 3D printers and is offering the Velleman K8200 for just £700.
It is built with an aluminium frame, and comes with Repetier software for product design and five metres of polylactic acid (PLA) — the 3mm plastic wire used to create the desired 3D objects.
According to Maplin, the only limit with the K8200 is the size of the 20cm x 20cm x 20cm printable area … but I’m sure it won’t be long before someone builds a house using this relatively new technology.
Your blogger, tongue in cheek, has decided to add Plastic Surgeon on the list – not because we inhabit a plastic building, but because we repair so much of the stuff. From gently heating twisted uPVC gutters and drains to bring them back into a recognizable shape, to repairing scratches and gouges in baths, basins, shower trays and windows, as well as cills, cladding, flooring and spas.
Our Finishers even repair caravans, boats, bathroom pods and spas….. what has amazed me, though, when researching this particular blog is how few actual plastic buildings are around, even though it is used widely as component parts for all aspects of construction.
But maybe we’ll all be printing off bricks etc in the future to build our own homes – who knows … anyway, we hope you enjoyed our lighthearted series on buildings and structures.