In a an example of remarkable resourcefulness, housing engineers in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, are using empty water bottles to build houses. Nigeria has been experiencing a serious housing shortage in most of its major cities due to a huge influx of people migrating from the hinterlands. According to Sabon Yelwa, Nigerian staff writer for the journal Terra Daily, in a recent article, the houses are constructed by filling the empty water bottles with sand and then capping them. Each bottle weights approximately two pounds, roughly equivalent to a brick of equal size.
The project was started by African based NGO Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE), with funds and technical assistance from foreign in the UK. A prototype has been built using 14,000 bottles near the city of Kaduna. It has two bedrooms and bathroom and a kitchen. Outside, there is a courtyard surrounded by an all water-bottle wall with different colored bottle caps to provide for artistic expression. The model house runs on solar power, and thus has zero carbon emissions. Also, because the walls are essentially made of sand, the temperature inside holds steady at 64 degrees all year long; something many in the hot climate would certainly appreciate.
The builder’s claim the house is as sturdy as if made for cinder blocks, but stronger in some ways. For example, it’s bulletproof as well as fireproof and won’t fall down in an earthquake. The engineers were able to achieve all this because of the unique way the bottles were tied and then held together with mud and some cement. Other models are expected to go as high as three stories.
Nigeria has some 160 million people and tosses out about three million plastic bottles daily; many of them littering the landscape along the countries highways. The bottles to build the model house were collected and donated by a local agency; it’s not yet apparent how builders would get the bottles should mass production of bottle based houses become a reality in Nigeria. Currently, the government says that there are approximately 16 million too few houses and that bottle built houses would likely cost less than a quarter of the cost of traditional houses.
Engineers from DARE say the houses cost approximately $12,700 to build, but also believes that once an infrastructure was put into place to begin building such houses in large numbers, the price for each could be substantially reduced.
In addition to providing housing, using bottles would also reduce landscape litter and lower landfill costs.