Having worked with clay soils for years, I've learned a few simple ways to improve the structure of the soil.
A House Made Out of Plastic Bottles?
If you don't think it's possible to build a house using plastic bottles, think again.
The type of bottles that are used in this type of construction is called PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. This is the type of bottle that is considered safe to contain beverages for human consumption.
While I haven't personally built anything using plastic bottles, the basic technique is the same as that used for bricks—so if you are a brick-layer, you will find the method easy to follow.
In our world, plastic bottles are ubiquitous. They are cheap, convenient, and lightweight—but once the beverage inside has been consumed, the bottle is typically tossed into the trash. The world's landfills are glutted with mountains of plastic bottles.
Ecologically minded builders decided to try to address this problem by repurposing plastic bottles as a construction material. Today, plastic bottles have been used to build not only houses, but also water wells, raised bed gardens, and garden sheds. Pretty much any construction project you can think of could use these bottles as a building material.
Third world countries are starting to see the benefits. Plastic bottle houses in hot climates make cool dwellings that are solid, windproof, waterproof, and also bulletproof, which is uh... handy to know.
Did I mention cheap?
Discarded plastic bottles are free! Other people have already used them and tossed them away. All you need to do is set up a collection point in your local village or town, and you will soon have plenty of plastic bottles to build with.
How to Build a PET Plastic Bottle House
Advantages of Plastic Bottles vs. Bricks
- Low cost
- Non-brittle (unlike bricks)
- Absorbs abrupt shock loads - Since they are not brittle, they can take heavy loads without failure.
- Less construction material
- Easy to use for construction
- Green construction - Building an average-size house as outlined below frees up 12 cubic meters of landfill.
- Bottles - For a house that has one bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room, you will require approximately 7,800 plastic bottles. Hotels, bars, and restaurants are good sources for large supplies of plastic bottles.
- Sand - You will need sand—lots of it.
- Cement - Depending on the climate, you may need a little cement. The cooler the climate, the more cement you will need.
- String - You will also need a long length of string (the plastic type you see in garden centers).
- Earth - The more clay-type earth you have, the better.
- Helpers - Lots of willing helpers are a must because each bottle must be hand-filled with sand.
Step 1: Prepare the Bottles
First, filter the sand to remove any stones or debris. The sand must be able to pass through the narrow neck of the PET bottle.
The sand provides weight and durability. The sand must be pushed in so that it is compacted inside the bottle. Experts believe that a compacted-sand plastic bottle is 20 times stronger than brick. Impressive!
When each bottle is filled tightly with sand, secure the screw-top to prevent any sand leakage.
Step 2: Build a Foundation
While you are filling the bottles (hopefully you will have lots of helpers for this job), you can dig the foundation for the house.
All good construction requires a solid foundation. Without this, the building is at risk of collapsing like a pack of cards should the earth tremor or a high wind blow.
Fill your foundation with a high-quality cement mix. You may wish to call in an expert to complete this part of the job.
Now you are ready to start building.
Step 3: Build Support Columns
Next, build your support column and corners.
Lay your sand-filled bottles flat on their sides, and make a tight circle with all the bottles oriented so that their spouts point inward.
Secure them into position with a sand/cement mix, or mud if your soil is heavy clay.
Place the second layer of bottles immediately above, and fill the gaps with mud or a sand/cement mix.
When the support column has reached the desired height, bind everything together with string. Wrap the string around the spout-ends of the bottles, and join them together in a criss-cross pattern (see photo).
Step 4: Build the Walls
Next, it's time to build the walls.
Line up all the sand-filled bottles, side by side. Use a spirit level as you go along to ensure they are straight, carefully use cement or mud to hold your bottles in position.
When the wall has reached the required height, bind the bottleneck ends together in a cross-cross fashion with string.
When the construction is complete, the plastic-bottle walls will be rendered in a cement/sand-and-water mix, and the string will help keep everything in position.
Step 5: Build the Roof
When it comes to the roof, you have several options.
Aesthetically, I am tempted to say that a traditional, tile roof would look best on a bottle house, as shown in the picture at the top of this article.
You might argue that a bottle house should have an eco-friendly roof, and it is indeed true that roofs can be constructed from an unlimited range of eco-friendly materials. On the other hand, you will have already saved a fortune by building your house out of plastic bottles, so using traditional building materials for the roof would not break the bank at this stage.
People might wonder how much weight a plastic bottle house can bear. Walls built from these bottles can bear as much weight, if not more, than brick—so you could put steel girders up there, if you chose, without a problem.
For an environmentally friendly roof, you could use sod and turf, which I'm assured is great for insulation, too. They call this a "living roof." Personally, I'm not so sure about how well this would work, as it could mean having to haul a lawnmower up there to cut the grass after the rains come. In addition, this kind of roof could become a very comfortable home for insects. Yuck!
Step 6: Windows, Doors, and Interior Dividers
What about finishing off the house with windows, doors, and interior dividers? Well, the structural integrity of bottle houses is very sound, and you can go ahead and fit normal glass windows and wooden doors.
In terms of interior dividers, a nice idea is to fashion curtains by stringing together bottle tops. Not only will this help keep out flies, but it's a great way to stay with the theme for your plastic bottle house.
And there you have it—a plastic bottle house in six easy steps!
- BBC News - "Nigeria's plastic bottle house" - Nigeria's first house built from discarded plastic bottles is proving a tourist attraction in the northern village of Yelwa, writes the BBC's Sam Olukoya.
- Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World - Inhabitat is a green design and lifestyle site that provides coverage of environmental news and the latest in sustainable design.
- Andreas Froese, Environmental Consultant - Froese is the inventor of the technique ECOTEC, consisting of the use of disposable PET bottles, debris, and dirt as raw material for construction.
Maggy on July 04, 2020:
That is totally AWESOME
Louise on May 31, 2020:
Its a very interesting idea, and i actually want to start with my project ASAP, can the author share an email address fir further engagements? Thanking you in advance...
jack on February 16, 2020:
what is the build time on a project like this roughly?
Dion Sagal on October 26, 2019:
Is any one here willing to help me with my project? Then afterwards, i'll help you yours commence your plan..
Katina on April 05, 2019:
Amazing! We can remove harmful waste from our clogged rivers and oceans and help the homeless build houses so that they can become educated and prosperous in their communities. What a fantastic idea.
Rutikanga Nkarha Julien on February 24, 2019:
This was my final year project and as a civil engineer I actually think that if such project are well supported and financed ,especially in african country where the environment is not well treated, can bring several solutions to several problems.
Thank you for the sharing of such a great idea and adding some knowledge
Suzanne Angwin from Australia on August 14, 2018:
What a great idea. I must admit though a few year back I did think that some thing Like this might work but I worried about that the plastic may drying out
Himanshujoshi9926 on April 14, 2018:
Great idea for a better use of plastic,No pollution,house at low cost ,affordable for everyone. Really a great initiative thought to change the lifestyle.
Karoro Aziz from New York, US on October 21, 2017:
This is the most beautiful blog ever i read. good idea can change and recycling is one of them. great work..............
Besarien from South Florida on August 26, 2017:
Hi IzzyM! Wonderful hub! This is an amazing idea for recycling plastic waste and providing low cost building material. I have plenty of sand. I can see it being very hard to convince my local building inspector to sign off on it.
Danielle- That sounds like a chicken mansion!
Danielle on January 27, 2016:
This would be a good way to build an everything proof chicken coop for a decent price, as well. Bears, raccoons, mink... Come at me.
Susie Lehto from Minnesota on September 08, 2014:
Now that is an interesting way to recycle plastic bottles, and build a shelter to live in. I call this cord-wood style, minus the wood.
Debby Bruck on March 16, 2013:
I've seen articles about these environmental constructions and I appreciate the reminders. I believe there would be so many ways these bottle constructions may be used. I'm thinking of garden retaining wall might be nice. Blessings, Debby
IzzyM (author) from UK on April 18, 2012:
Thanks guys! I think it is quite an amazing use for PET plastic, which is a top of the range plastic designed away for the throwaway consumer society, and therefore wasteful. While they make super houses, I've no doubt they would make fantastic garden sheds and outbuildings for those of us with a brick house.
agusfanani from Indonesia on April 18, 2012:
Make houses from plastic bottles is a great idea in recycling those polluting materials. A very interesting hub. Vote up !
C. A. Simonson from Missouri on April 11, 2012:
Very interesting hub. Good job at pulling it all together.
IzzyM (author) from UK on March 24, 2012:
I've seen houses made from plastic bottles, but not glass. I supposed they used re-cycled glass? Interesting concept!
Foil Board Insulations Pty Ltd from Melbourne on March 23, 2012:
Interesting Article.. I have seen a house made from glass bottle's in an almost identical fashion. Amazing idea, due to the thermal property's and cost effectiveness! Thanks for this post.
IzzyM (author) from UK on March 04, 2012:
You never know, it might take off and become the building choice in industrial nations in the future! Thanks for commenting :)
Bldg an Architect on March 04, 2012:
Great hub. I always find alternative construction methods fascinating! Great ideas for developing or disaster-stricken communities.
IzzyM (author) from UK on February 01, 2012:
Yes I was reading that they are weather-proof and bullet-proof so make ideal and affordable homes, especially in Africa where they keep out the heat of the sun out too. They seem better suited to African climates than others.
Oyewole Folarin from Lagos on February 01, 2012:
This is serriously gathering momentum in the northern part of Nigeria. It's a welcome development which will make our environment a safer place to stay.
isisinanna from Taos,NM on January 15, 2012:
They are a pain to have to fill, but are essentially free :-)
IzzyM (author) from UK on December 06, 2011:
Thanks Sally, I read about the plastic bottle skylights myself and it was an amazing idea that worked brilliantly. I myself am in the process of collecting plastic bottles to build a greenhouse, and for us in the West, that is a superb idea. That hub is linked above, if you'd like to visit it.
Sally Branche from Only In Texas! on December 06, 2011:
What a grand idea! Plastic is just a scourge in the landfills and the oceans. This is an excellent way to reuse it. I also saw a good video about people in 3rd world countries who made a regular business of installing 2 liter bottle skylights in corrugated metal houses. It makes a huge difference to the amount of light available in the house, and it's a good business for the entrepreneurs! Voted up, useful & shared! :)
IzzyM (author) from UK on November 18, 2011:
Plastic bottles filled with sand are 20 times stronger than brick, and are believed to last for at least 300 years which is longer than the mortar that holds them together!
sweetie1 from India on November 18, 2011:
Once again it is very beautiful.. but my real concern is how strong the house is which is made of plastic bottles?
IzzyM (author) from UK on November 16, 2011:
Thanks, took ages because my internet is almost at a standstill, and photos took ages to upload. Still...
Keith Matyi from Denton, TX on November 16, 2011:
Great story! Something off the beaten path read and see the pictures as you go along...keep up the good work!
IzzyM (author) from UK on November 16, 2011:
It sure is! Thanks for commenting :)
healthyfacts from United States on November 16, 2011:
Great idea for recycling plastic bottles. Certainly better than tossing them in landfills.
IzzyM (author) from UK on November 16, 2011:
Yes it would be time-consuming filling all those bottles, but it might be worth paying the local kids pocket money to help out!
Who'd have thought that plastic bottles would make such sound houses. Might be a new trend starting...
I go through a couple of soft drink bottles a week, but I bet all your neighbours do too, so add them all together and it won't take long to collect enough.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on November 16, 2011:
This is a fantastic idea, I'm sure we could have all built a house in our lifetimes quite easily if we'd started collecting our bottles from young. I know i've drank a lot of fizzy drinks in my time!
Fantastic eco-building too
Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on November 16, 2011:
Great stuff! great idea! I guess the time consuming job would be filling the bottles with sand...