At a glance 2 min

Sustainable homes made from plastic waste

Using plastic waste that accumulates in the environment to build affordable housing in sub-Saharan Africa is the thrust of a project started by Norwegian start-up Othalo.
Sustainable homes made from plastic waste
JDS Architects
Sustainable homes made from plastic waste

The company launched this project after patenting technology to produce building materials made from 100% recycled plastic waste.

Othalo has teamed up with young Franco-Belgian architect Julien de Smedt, founder of the JDS Architects agency, and has entered into a partnership with UN Habitat, the United Nations Programme for Sustainable Human Development.

Using one of the world's problems to solve another

As the sub-Saharan region faces a severe housing shortage due to rapid urbanisation - 360 million houses will be needed by 2050 - and an increasing amount of plastic waste in its environment, Othalo's idea is to use this waste for positive purposes. Its aim is twofold: on the one hand, it aims to harness the intrinsic qualities of recovered plastic waste, such as flexibility and strength, to create affordable, strong and durable homes, and on the other hand, it aims to address the shortage of building materials in a region of the world where there is an urgent need for housing.

Architect Julien de Smedt is focusing on designing 60 m² modular buildings, constructed from 8 tonnes of plastic waste and developed in collaboration with local communities. Current projections show two-storey blocks of buildings with balconies and covered terraces. The architect based his design on buildings in particularly fast-growing cities such as Nairobi. "I looked at how, in Africa, indoor and outdoor spaces are connected and how ventilation and shade can be created," he explained.

Industrial upcycling

Although only 3 prototypes have been created so far, the first houses should be built at the beginning of 2022. A first factory is planned in Kenya in 2021, in which basic elements such as partitions, ceilings and floors will be manufactured from the plastic waste collected nearby. It should be able to produce 2,800 houses per year.

Eventually, Othalo and its partners hope to be able to expand their product range to include the construction of refugee centres, mobile temperature-controlled cold rooms for food and medicines, as well as schools and hospitals. All Othalo construction modules will be manufactured locally, creating employment and wealth for the local population.

More information:

If you enjoyed this article, you'll love the next!