Humanitarian architect reconstructs the rubble of Nepal’s tremor into relief housing

Combining his professional talents with his humanitarian passion, award-winning architect Shigeru Ban founded the design-centric relief organisation Voluntary Architects Network (VAN). 

Ban who was awarded the 2014 Pritzker Laureate, is famous for his signature building materials – cardboard and plastic tubes. He has ingeniously used these recycled products to create pop-up pavilions, schools, community centres and to restore the beautiful Christchurch cathedral destroyed by the earthquake. 


Cathedral in Christchurch devastated by earthquake Image: Shigeru Ban Architects

Cardboard Cathedral – After Image: Shigeru Ban Architects


Now, VAN has rebuilding Nepal in his sights, using the plentiful bricks left over from the ruins of April’s earthquake. The disaster was responsible for the deaths of over 8,000 people and left many homeless.

VAN will join forces with local Nepalese architects and university students to design and build durable, inexpensive transitional housing for those who had their homes destroyed by the devastating tremor. 

The easy-to-build structures are also a quick option to the housing issues facing a nation struggling to rebuild itself. Ban’s website states,

“This system can be assembled by connecting modular wooden frames, infilling with rubble bricks. This simple construction method enables anyone to assemble the wooden frames very quickly and if a roof (a truss made of local paper tubes) is secured on top, and the wooden structure covered with a plastic sheet, people can immediately begin to inhabit the shelters. Afterwards, people can stack the rubble bricks inside the wooden frames and slowly complete the construction themselves.”

Bricks being a traditional avenue to building may not usually feature in Ban’s repertoire, but the clever recycling of remnants certainly is. The first prototype is to be constructed by end of August.

Recycled plastic could be the answer to more sustainable roads

The idea of using re-using plastic in this way, was put forward by Dutch Construction firm VolkerWessels.

The firm predicts their recycled plastic surfaces could be roadworthy within three years, producing less of a carbon footprint, requiring less maintenance and coping better with extreme temperatures.

VolkerWessels add that another advantage is quicker laying time in comparison to asphalt, and the ability to run power and utility cables through it as the road will be hollow.

It will also mean less annoying roadworks as stuck it can be constructed off-site and then delivered to wherever it’s required. This in turn will lead to less of an impact on the environment and also in terms of transporting raw materials

The exciting concept is still at the ideas stage, requiring partners such as plastics manufacturers who can contribute to the project. VolkerWessel is also seeking expressions of interest from the recycling sector and universities. More research is needed to ascertain how the road will hold up in wet weather and slippery conditions.

The idea will be used in a pilot scheme in Rotterdam city, which is aiming to become the world’s most sustainable port city.