Eco-Tec: building your own house in Latin America
Andreas Froese from Germany, founder of the Eco-Tec company, now in his adopted country of Honduras, began teaching people how to build his first “economical” house of plastic bottles, in 2001. Andreas was in Bolivia a few months ago, teaching Maria Jesus Molina, her family and other inhabitants of the neighbourhood the art and method of building their own houses with the same PET bottles in less than 3 weeks! Maria’s house will be rectangular in shape, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living room. But once it is finished another house will see the light of day, this time a round one. And then another … and so on, until the entire neighbourhood of Delmira Cuélhar is built using this technique. There’s no limit to the shapes - quick and easy to construct, everything is possible with these bottles!
A PET bottle + a little earth = a brick
The basis of the method is to fill the plastic bottles with earth so as to obtain a brick. In inventing this technique, Andreas Froese had the perfect answer to both the problem of waste and the housing problem in poor regions. It was when he saw the quantities of PET bottles thrown away in Honduras and the helplessness of the populations faced with the size of the problem that the idea came to him of using these bottles and giving them a second life, as a building material. 90 to 140 plastic bottles are needed to construct a square metre of wall.
An ideal solution for developing countries
The bottles are attached to each other by means of a kind of mesh. Once the “canvas” is erected, the gaps between the bricks are filled with earth or sand. A mixture of cement and lime is used here and there to consolidate the walls and avoid any problems if construction is carried out during the rainy season. By avoiding the use of cement as far as possible, the construction price is 40% lower than for “traditional” buildings. “These houses are ideal for people with modest means, but also for better-off people too because they are real works of art which will last, much more so than brick houses, with the bottles being much stronger than bricks.” They are also comfortable, safe, energy-efficient and can withstand earthquakes.
Rather than building the houses himself, Andreas has developed the method of teaching anyone who wants to learn the construction technique based on bottles: he is therefore passing on his know-how and teaching local populations how to build their own houses. The end of each training course results in the construction of yet another house. Making the populations understand that waste, in this particular instance plastic bottles, can be reused as building material is still the most difficult thing for Andreas. Teaching the construction method is still important but, for him, it is the environmental awareness that is crucial. To the question “what are your objectives for the future?” The reply is “…just one: to make people realise that a PET bottled filled with earth is a brick!”
Eco-Tec has won numerous international prizes. After the construction of individual houses and also schools in South America, India and Angola, Eco-Tec is offering its training and waste reutilisation programmes for the reconstruction of houses, water tanks and warehouse in Haiti.