BY: LAMI SOETAN
In just five days, a team of four people were able to build a 40 square meter house, complete with two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a bathroom and a kitchen for only $6,800.
This amazing feat is the brainchild of Fernando Llanos and Oscar Méndez, founders of Conceptos Plásticos, a Colombian business venture that, according to its website, “transforms plastic and rubber waste into an alternative construction system for temporary and permanent homes, shelters, classrooms, community halls and other buildings”.
Llanos came up with the idea when he was trying to build a house in Yacopí, a small town located 177 kilometers from the national capital Bogota. He ran into challenges with finding materials that were light enough and easy to transport to the area. Independently, Mendez conceived the same idea, which he presented as his thesis while he was a graduate student of architecture at Universidad EAN. The two met through family connections and partnered together with the same vision in mind.
The plastic bricks are made from waste and recycled plastic that is sourced from local recyclers. The plastic is melted and injected into brick molds, and the resulting blocks, which are reminiscent of Lego pieces, can be assembled for the easy construction of buildings. They have been tested to make sure they are resistant to both fire and earthquakes.
Bogotá alone produces about 740 tons of plastic waste on a daily basis, so this initiative is a great way to divert plastic waste from landfills and use it toward building new communities. The initiative gives new life and purpose to plastic that would have remained in the earth for about 300 years.
In 2015, the company helped to build a shelter for 42 families that were displaced by violence in the town of Guapi, using up 120 tons of recycled plastic in the process. Due to the innovative construction of the plastic bricks, the shelter can be mounted and dismounted in case there is need to move it to another area. The company is also involved with many other projects including houses for indigenous groups and a possible housing plan in San Andrés for the Colombian Navy.