Conceptos Plásticos is a Colombian construction company that builds homes, shelters, classrooms, and community spaces out bricks and pillars made entirely from recycled plastic, rubber, and electronic waste. The company was founded by Oscar Mendez, an architect, and Fernando Llano, who had previously researched the reuse of plastics as building materials to create “ecoblocks.” This business venture intends to address three major issues: affordable housing, jobs for vulnerable communities, and reuse of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.
The base material for these homes are gathered from local recyclers resulting in a reduction of water and energy consumption. By reusing plastics, the company is able to divert materials that otherwise would take 500 years to biodegrade from being dumped in landfills. This plastic is ground into a rough powder then melted and poured into a mold that creates stackable bricks or “ecoblocks” that can be put together in a Lego-like fashion to build walls, roofs, and decks that are insulated as well as earthquake- and fire-resistant. Simple assembly and disassembly make for homes that are easily relocated, making them useful for temporary housing of refugees, homeless people, or military personnel.
Conceptos Plásticos aims not only to mitigate plastic waste generation but also to reduce the housing deficit, which is currently around 45% across all Latin American countries. In just five days, a team of four people were able to build a two-bedroom and one-bathroom house for only $6,800 USD. Because houses are easy to piece together or dismantle members of the community can easily build them with simple instructions, creating local jobs as well as practical, affordable housing.
The company’s biggest accomplishment so far was a four-week construction project for people who had been displaced by armed conflict in Guapi, Colombia. The completed project provided housing for 42 families while recycling 200 tons of plastic. CP is a tremendous inspiration for other business endeavors that have the potential to address similar multifaceted global challenges.
Source: Nicolás Valencia, “This House was Built in 5 Days Using Recycled Plastic Bricks,” ArchDaily, May 01, 2017, https://www.archdaily.com/869926/this-house-was-buiilt-in-5-days-using-recycled-plastic-bricks.
Student Researcher: Taylar Wilhelmsen (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)