The big bad wolf blew down houses made from straw and sticks. But was his huffing and puffing thwarted by the third little pig because the house was made from plastic bricks? Miniwiz Sustainable Energy Ltd. has made it as a finalist in 2011’s Asian Innovation Awards, given out by The Wall Street Journal, for making the bricks from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.
The company made the EcoArk Pavilion in Taipei, reports Paul Mozur of The Wall Street Journal. The walls of the building are made solely of plastic bottles that fit together like Lego pieces. The polygonal bottles are called Polli-Bricks and made of recycled plastic from items such as water bottles. Polli-Bricks make the building structurally sound enough to withstand earthquakes and typhoons, environmentally friendly, and relatively cheap to build.
Miniwiz founder and Managing Director Arthur Huang said making a structure out of the bottles reduces construction and material costs by 30% compared to a traditional building, and given that in Taiwan construction and materials account for 60% of a building’s cost, that means real savings.
‘For more than 100 years we’ve accumulated waste that no one is using, just like tapping into coal reserves, we are taking that resource and turning it into something usable, attractive and most importantly marketable,’ Mr. Huang said.
The bricks can be blow-molded out of shredded PETÂ bits at a construction site. Next, they are stacked into rectangular panels. Workers then cover the bricks with a film similar to the coating found on smartphone screens. The coating makes the panels resistant to fire and water. The coating can even be laced with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, to provide low-cost lighting.
The workers then hang the coated panels on a steel frame. The air inside the bottles works as a natural insulator. Because the panels are modular, buildings made from Polli-Bricks can be easily dismantled and the panels reused. This attribute makes Polli-Bricks appealing for structures in disaster zones and remote areas.
Polli-Bricks are currently being used to create buildings such as an entertainment campus, IMAX theaters, factory, and exhibition area in Taiwan, Malaysia, and China, reports Mozur.
Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.