How to Build a House Made From PET Plastic Bottles
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.