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Posts Tagged ‘bottle wall’

Craftsman Bamboo and Plastic Bottle House (click to enlarge)

Craftsman Bamboo and Plastic Bottle House (click to enlarge)


I submitted my final house design proposal for the Shelters for All housing competition. As posted previously, I chose a bamboo and plastic bottle wall design that best meets the design criteria. Entry requirements called for a one page summary of the project, detailed time and cost estimates, and up to five pages of drawings. Winners will be announced in about one month. Key facts are summarized below.

Summary: The high cost of housing is the number one problem that must be addressed in order to solve the world’s housing crisis. At a cost of just $3.50 per square foot for materials, the Craftsman House provides safe, disaster-resistant, comfortable housing that is affordable for those in poverty.

Specifications: 940 square feet, 72 square feet loft space, 3 bedrooms, one bath, footprint 23’x40’, plus 118 square feet covered porch

Features: The spacious, modern kitchen includes base cabinets made of rot-proof low-fired brick, a pantry and broom closet and dining area; the living room includes built-in bench with storage below (extra sleeping space if needed), coat closet and wood stove; children’s bedrooms include desks and loft space for additional sleeping or storage space; all bedrooms include ample closet space and two windows per room for cross ventilation and emergency egress; the bathroom has a shower, composting toilet and sink; the open-air laundry creates a pleasant work space that keeps excess moisture out of the house and helps clothes smell better and dry faster; garden area includes trellises and raised beds for fresh food production; three water barrels – including one gravity feed water barrel to the kitchen sink – provide potable water for plants and household use; the front porch includes built-in benches for relaxation and social interaction.

The primary building method is bamboo frame with infill panels of plastic bottles stuffed with plastic trash. The main benefit of this design is its low cost and simplicity of construction. We know the concept outlined here is viable because similar projects have already been constructed by numerous groups in Latin America.

Total Materials Cost: $3,292
Total Labor: 2,016 man hours
Unskilled Labor Cost Total: 1,792 man hours x $1.70/hour= $3,046
Skilled Labor Cost Total: 224 man hours x $2.25/hour= $504
Total Materials and Labor Cost: $6,842
– based on actual costs in Guatemala and other developing countries
– 940 sq. ft. house for $3,292 = $3.50/sq. ft. for materials
– 940 sq. ft. house for $3,550 = $3.78/sq. ft. for labor
– Total: $7.28/sq. ft. for materials and labor (PV and solar hot water heater not included, recycled materials used whenever practical)

Shelters for All Blog

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Interior bottle wall detail drawing (click to enlarge)

Interior bottle wall detail drawing (click to enlarge)


Bottle walls at Somos Children’s Village

Bottle walls at Somos Children’s Village


I’ve known about bottle walls for a number of years, but I didn’t pay much attention because most bottle walls use a lot of cement and because earthbag walls are superior in a number of ways. Up until today I favored bottle walls primarily for decoration. (See Bottle Walls and Bottle Wall Details.)

My opinion changed today when Kelly published the blog post Bottle Walls in Africa. Zafra, one of our readers, left a comment about interior bottle walls at Project Somos. Interior walls? H-m-m-m. I found the photo they were referring to, and then I set out to refine the process and make the drawing shown above. Consider it a work in progress. I would love to hear of ways to improve the idea.

Plastic bottle walls are really catching on. Interior plastic bottle walls are especially appealing and a good match-up with earthbag exterior walls. Benefits include cleaning up the community, mass involvement versus just a few construction workers, community ownership, education, providing much needed homes and schools and other structures. The links below show lots of great examples of bottle wall structures. The next section explains the building process for interior bottle walls.

Bottle Wall Construction ‘How-to’ [Based on a list by Laura Kutner, Peace Corps/Guatemala Source: http://www.peacecorps.gov I’ve edited the process to explain how to make interior bottle walls.]
1. Make sure your community is involved and that you have a safe/approved location to build.
2. Make sure you have a budget and enough funding.
3. Collect plastic bottles and lots of inorganic trash such as plastic bags. Then stuff bottles with inorganic trash. Each bottle and all of the stuffing material has to be clean (rinsed in water) and dried. If anything is wet or dirty it will become moldy and start to smell. Organic trash, such as paper, cardboard, dirt, and rocks, cannot be used.
4. Build a foundation and wall frame with columns and horizontal members made of wood, bamboo, metal or concrete. Finish the roof before proceeding.
5. Add support rods (rebar, thin bamboo, saplings, dowels, etc.) on one side of the wall frame. Then add chicken wire or fishing net on one side of the frame. Work on the other side in sections, putting in the bottles and securing them tightly to the mesh with twine.
6. Continue section by section, until bottles are placed, then stuff all empty leftover spaces with inorganic trash.
7. Add support rods and mesh on the second side of the frame.
8. Test the plaster mixture to make sure it sticks. Cement, lime or earthen plaster will all work. Then apply the first layer of plaster. (You could plaster over the frame if it is unattractive or if you want uninterrupted plastered walls. However, I like the appearance of exposed wood and bamboo frames, so I suggest plastering just the bottle wall sections. This process will be easier if the frame is a little wider than the bottles – say 1” extra each side. In this example, the frame is 6” and the bottles are 4”.)
8. When the plaster dries, apply a second layer.
9. Finish with a third layer then lay the flooring.
10. Inaugurate and celebrate!

Image source: Somos Children’s Village
Plastic Bottle Schools
Hug it Forward (14 schools already finished!)
Inspiration Green Bottle Homes

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Bottle Wall Details

Bottle Wall Details


I just found these great tips by students at Humboldt State University on the Appropedia website. This is the best system I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing!

Bottle bricks were made by using a tile saw to cut bottles harvested from the waste stream. The tile saw was set to cut the bottom 3inches of the bottle off. We butted the bottom parts of two bottles together and wrapped them in aluminum flashing and duct tape. The flashing acts as a reflector, sending light through the bottle and into the shed. Without the flashing, much light would be lost to the interior of the wall. We often used the butt of a clear bottle on the interior of the wall and a colored bottle on the exterior. This method allowed for brighter light to enter the shed.

Image credit Carrie Schaden

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