Monday, April 26, 2010

The future of construction - or something like it

By Max Paetz
Regardless of how immaterial future 'greener' societies may be, a need for shelter and public infrastructure are two things that will always be needed. This poses a problem in our resource-limited world when the vast majority of buildings are made in part out of wood, and huge amounts of energy are expended in the production of steel and other building materials. Furthermore, large quantities of waste is produced in traditional construction methods (i.e. disposal of poor-quality lumber, disposal of excess lumber, etc).

Miniwiz, a company that specializes in sustainable energy development, has recently developed the 'polli-brick' which is a building material made solely out of recycled mature PET plastic bottles. Although the thought of structures - especially large ones - made entirely out of plastic bottles may seem somewhat precarious, 'polli-brick' structures have been tested to withstand extreme weather conditions. The bricks themselves, besides the obvious fact that they are recycled plastic bottles, hold many energy-saving qualities. The bricks have far superior thermal and sound insulating properties than traditional building materials, they are semi-transparent, meaning more light in structures, and they are self-interlocking, meaning no need for nails, screws, mortar, glue, and so on. Another interesting quality that these bricks posess lie in within the fact that the bricks are hollow - this means that lights can be implemented into the walls and ceilings of structures (and powered as well with stored solar energy within the bricks), gardens can be grown in home walls and floors, storage space is increased immensely, and so on.

Here is a miniwiz representative explaining the polli-bricks at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.

Regardless of the benefits of such green technology, public response may be mixed due to polli-brick structures aesthetic value (or lack thereof), resistance to change, etc. The first polli-brick building was recently completed for the 2010 Taipei flora expo which commences on december 6th, 2010. The polli-brick building at the expo, if nothing else, will hopefully raise awareness of sustainable architecture and inspire new ideas of similar nature.

edit: Upon further inspection, I realized that the image of the polli-brick building I posted was actually steel, so I deleted it.



  1. This polli-brick seems like a very innovative piece of material that could have many potential applications. Sustainable design and architecture is definitely something that should become more of a priority, especially in developed nations. How expensive are these bricks to produce in terms of conventional materials?

  2. I agree, but I'm sure the logging/masonry industries would put up a fight against any sort of "pro" polli-brick policies. It seems to be such a versatile material that a balance between conventional and polli-brick technology would be effective. I think more importantly is how they have come up with this unique way to recycle massive amounts of plastic bottles.

  3. That is a really cool concept. I have not previously heard of this material for building. It is great to be able to reuse the plastic, but it seems like they must undergo an intensive process to transform the bottles into a strong material. Has there been any sort of analysis of the actual energy efficiency of creating and using this material?

  4. I am also interested in exactly how much energy and manufacturing is required to get from recycled plastic to the bricks themselves. But, this is undoubtedly a very cool concept. If these bricks can be manufactured at a low cost and require a relatively low amount of energy to produce, these bricks could have a very beneficial impact on the future of sustainable architecture.


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