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    “Ecological Bricks”

    By Keith R | December 24, 2006

    Topics: Environmental Protection, Waste & Recycling | 14 Comments »

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    It’s been interesting to see how much the articles on the Brazilian and Honduran buildings made using PET bottles have captured the imagination of so many readers. Since then I have been alerted to several other examples of recycled trash being used as building materials. Most of these concern what people call “ecological bricks” (ladrillos ecológicos) although everyone seems to differ on just what constitutes one.

    “Ecological Bricks” for Low-Income Housing in Argentina

    One example involves bricks developed by Argentina’s Experimental Center for Economical Housing (Centro Experimental de la Vivienda Económica – CEVE). The Córdoba-based CEVE was created in 1967 as an R&D, technology transfer and training center in experimental, low-cost housing. CEVE is managed by the Association of Economical Housing (AVE) under contract with the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET).

    recycled bricks in ArgentinaIn a project funded in part by Germany’s technical cooperation agency, GTZ, CEVE developed a brick made of used food (primarily candy) wrappers and plastic (primarily PET) soda and water bottles. Used beverage containers are provided by the city’s selective collection plant, collection points in schools and government agencies, plus rejects from the local bottling plant. The PE film is provided by the Converflex company (Arcor) in Córdoba province, which recycles PVC film but not other plastics.

    The plastics are ground up and then mixed with Portland cement and chemical additives to make the bricks and something CEVE calls “brick plates.” The CEVE project hires unemployed youth (between 18-24 years old) to make the bricks. The participants can use the bricks to build their own mini-houses.

    CEVE says that the resulting bricks are lighter (about 1.1 kg vs. an average 2 kg for a regular brick) and cheaper (by about half) than traditional bricks, but comparable in terms of durability, water and fire resistance, with good heat and sound insulation properties. In outdoor exposure tests undertaken by CEVE over the course of two years, the materials stood up well to both weather and ultraviolet radiation.

    [And did I mention that CEVE has developed a roofing material consisting of sheets made from ground-up PET bottles mixed with crushed peanut shells and/or wood shavings?]

    CEVE has already test-built houses with these materials and it has been government approved for use in public housing. [Note: the Córdoba municipality of Unquillo announced this past October that it had purchased a “chipper”/bone-grinder that it was using to break down PET bottles and wood from its town dump to make ladrillos ecológicos to be used in the construction of housing for the local poor.]

    For more information (in Spanish) on the CEVE project, click this link.

    Other Argentine Experiments

    The Experimental Center for Production, Architecture Technology for Emergencies (CEP-ATAE) of the University of Buenos Aires’ (UBA) Architecture, Design and Urbanism Faculty (FADU), working with groups of waste-pickers known in BA as cartoneros, and an informal “recycling museum” set up by a community organization in a park in the Palermo neighborhood, have made ladrillos ecológicos, tiles and concrete slabs where they have substituted ground-up PET bottles for as much as 60% of the sand used in making cement. The municipality of Villa Gesell reportedly has already used the “PET-crete” slabs for some of its sidewalks.

    the young entrepreneurs of Le-PasMeanwhile, the winners of an annual “young entrepreneurs” contest (“Emprendedores Sub 20″ (“Entrepreneurs Under 20″) in Córdoba province were a trio of high school ladies and their project dubbed “Le-Pas” — Le = ladrillos ecológicos, and Pas = Pascanas, the area their high school is located. The trio developed two types of bricks: one made from ground-up PET bottles mixed with cement, the other peanut shells and wood shavings mixed with cement.

    The ladies have already studied the local and regional market, and believe that they can make a viable business of it with only a 84,500 peso (about US$29,229 at the current exchange rate) initial investment. They believe that they can recuperate the investment and a modest profit with a sale price of only one peso per “PET brick” (about 35 US cents at current exchange rates) and 0.9 peso for “peanut brick.”

    If you wish to read more, you can find the full story (in Spanish) at a pretty good blog covering environment issues in Córdoba.

    A PET Bottle Brick in Brazil

    A physics professor and his students in an engineering course at the Manaus (Amazonas) campus of the Lutheran University of Brazil (Ulbra) have developed a unique kind of ecological brick. Rather than grind up PET bottles, Professor Newton Lima leaves them whole. And unlike Andreas Froese’s work in construction with PET bottles, these bottles are sealed with air, not sand, inside. The whole bottle is inserted into a wooden mold made by Lima and his students, then the mold is filled with quartz sand and cement. Once hardened, the “PET brick” is removed from the mold.

    mold with cutaway brick showing position of PET bottle withinWhy air instead of sand? Because the air barrier provides an effective insulator, important in areas like Amazonas with year-round hot weather.

    Professor Lima says that resistance tests show that the “PET brick” is just as tough as ordinary bricks and within the standards called for by the Brazilian Standards Association’s (ABNT) technical norms for such construction materials.

    Several parties have indicated interest in selling the brick, but so far no deals. Professor Lima is more interested in seeing the PET brick become the basis for low-cost housing for low-income families, and is trying to get the University to organize and spearhead a project toward that end.

    – Keith R

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    14 Responses to ““Ecological Bricks””

    1. Alice Clare Says:

      Thanks, Keith R, for leaving a comment on my blog. It’s certainly good to know that my thoughts are being well-received given that I’m no expert! By all means, quote :) And having browsed your site I realise I need to look through it thoroughly…lots of good stuff seems to be here.

    2. TechnoPrimitive » Blog Archive » The Temas Blog » “Ecological Bricks” Says:

      [...] The Temas Blog » “Ecological Bricks” [...]

    3. nazanin moradi Says:

      Hi,
      The ecological bricks was great info. I loved it!
      We are going to use this concept in south of Iran (Persian Gulf) for the eco-design of a development(industrial) project. Could you give me (estimation) of how much investment is needed for producing these type of bricks (for a camp of about 20000 workeres)? And also, is there any information on the operational and maintanance costs?

      Cheers,
      Nazanin

    4. Jayson Says:

      It’s amazing what can be done with recycled materials and even more amazing how durable and inexpensive these items can be.

    5. Leave Only Footprints Says:

      [...] Was Inspired By These ….  But dont just listen to me – check out the crafty types. Dont get me wrong – plastic recycling is good but these guys are my kind of people – they dont throw plastic rubbish away as the bad people do, but they dont recycle it either. No they cut out the middle man and reuse plastic rubbish to make other wonderful and useful things  The Fusers – they fuse together sevral flimsy plastic bags together to create one strong sheet that can then be sewn into all manner of things The knitters knit their old plastic bags up into all sorts of fantastic things The Squirel Bafflers fool those furry bird seed stealers with this cunning foil. The junk boaters – sail round the world on a boat made from plastic bottles In the building trade plastic bottles and candy wrappers have been used to make bricks [...]

    6. Portland, OR EcoMetro Play Says:

      [...] to make the bricks, and participants can use the bricks to build their own mini-houses. Imagine, candy wrappers as building materials!   The only unfortunate thing, of course, is that you can’t actually recycle the candy [...]

    7. East Bay EcoMetro Play Says:

      [...] to make the bricks, and participants can use the bricks to build their own mini-houses. Imagine, candy wrappers as building materials!   The only unfortunate thing, of course, is that you can’t actually recycle the candy [...]

    8. Seattle EcoMetro Play Says:

      [...] to make the bricks, and participants can use the bricks to build their own mini-houses. Imagine, candy wrappers as building materials!   The only unfortunate thing, of course, is that you can’t actually recycle the candy [...]

    9. Twin Cities EcoMetro Play Says:

      [...] to make the bricks, and participants can use the bricks to build their own mini-houses. Imagine, candy wrappers as building materials!   The only unfortunate thing, of course, is that you can’t actually recycle the candy [...]

    10. Mukesh Says:

      i saw somewhere on the Nat-geo about the roofing sheets manufactured from the Aluminium and plastic waste. can I get the Details of the Same.?

    11. melina Says:

      hi there.. omygosh you guys are sooo genius… in my school in april 16th 2011 we’re gonna ry to make that one the ecological brick and show it to the others …. wish me luck so that oi can be as lucky as yours :P

    12. Filipe Morandi Soares Says:

      I really liked these ideas of ecological bricks, especially the brick developed by EEVC. Bricks that protect from ultraviolet radiation can be very useful to reduce the number of instances of skin cancer. But the brick that uses plastic bottles, which was made in Brazil, is a cool and interesting idea too. Hypothetically, the block is tough due to the air inside the bottle, which exerts a certain pressure, once it is trapped inside. One more point for sustainability.

    13. Athos Assis Says:

      The initiative of the EEVC in producing ecological bricks correctly can be considered a great act in favor of the environment and brings many benefits to society. In the formation of this product we found the three “R’s”, reducing the amount of waste, reuse many types of waste, such as organic and plastic, and recycling them, obtaining grat quality bricks in the end. The idea is so great that besides the positive aspects described above, it creates jobs and helps the circulation of money in the market. Congratulations to everyone involved in this “green project”.

    14. rajesh Says:

      That’s Really good to know, I am planning to start the e waste processing unit in india this year and i really want to recycle all the waste into usable products such as your Eco Brick, let me try in “Practically” before going “commercially” thanks for the info and i will be bloging for ref if required.

      once again thank you and your team very much.

    15. Cynthia Says:

      In Mexico, a group of students in the state of Chiapas has developed and launched the manufacture of bricks using peanut shell. They are wonderful as were excellent for sound insulation, cold and heat !!!

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