The simple bottle could offer the answer to both homelessness and landfill in Africa

Using the technique known as “bottle walls”, people are able to build a two-bedroom home using 14,000 recycled plastic bottles, for about a quarter the cost of a conventional home.

The concept hits two birds with one stone, addressing the issues of both homelessness and pollution. Nigeria, for instance, has a serious housing shortage as a result of affordability. As the most populous country of the region, it’s confronted by the problem of 16 million people struggling without shelter. The country also battles a never-ending battle with plastic waste accumulating.

Nigerians have been getting help from German firm Ecotec Environmental Solutions, which teaching them how to build houses with this technique.

The solid walls are formed a model where bottles are filled with sand and then stacked on their sides. The materials are held together with cement filling frames, around a foot or more in thickness that are able to insulate and protect the people inside.

The ingenious concept provides a comfortable home for the inhabitants, as I retains a pleasant temperature all year round. Furthermore, the homes are bulletproof, fireproof and can withstand earthquakes.

The buildings can only be three stories high, as a result of the weight of the sand-filled bottles. To top it off these are no prefab-sprouts, with each building sporting a unique, colourful look as a result of recycled bottle caps.

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.