Exploring an Environmentally-Friendly House Made of Bottles and Sand

Fagjun | Published 2017-07-05 03:16

A house in progress
[Photo by Pablo Mediavilla Costa/El Pais]

Tateh Lehbib Braica, an engineer, built an environmentally-friendly house that can protect residents from the harsh conditions of the Algerian desert.

The house that Tateh built is a testament to his love for his grandmother. “I decided to build a place for my grandmother to live that was more comfortable and more worthy of her,” Tateh told The Guardian. Thus, Tateh came up a house that can not only withstand the brutal desert but also recycle plastic waste. Now, Tateh's houses have come up in five refugee camps situated in Tindouf, Algeria.

The house isn't what you'd call ordinary. In fact, people even called Tateh the “crazy bottle guy”. His neighbors doubted that his idea would work—that is, until they saw the finished product. Once they saw how well the house worked against harsh desert conditions, they began to see things Tateh's way.

Shelter from the Elements

Rows of sand-filled bottle make up the circular wall of the house.
[Pablo Mediavilla Costa/El Pais]

The house that Tateh built didn't rely on sophisticated plans, materials, technologies, or equipment. Tateh, who has a masters in energy efficiency at the University of Las Palmas used bottles and sand, which were of course in abundance in the desert. The environmentally-friendly house is circular in shape, and its walls are made of plastic bottles filled with sand, cement, and an earth and straw mixture.

This combination of materials is tougher than the sun-dried bricks traditional in the region. Sun-dried bricks can fall apart in the rains, which do visit the area from time to time. The earth and straw mixture, meanwhile, also acts as insulation for the house.

Even the shape of the house itself serves not just one, but two purposes. First, it reduces the effects of the sun's rays by as much as 90%. Second, it keeps sand dunes from forming around the house during sand storms. As you can imagine, it's easier for sand to gather around square-shaped houses. However, sand blows around circular houses instead of gathering against the walls.

Tateh also designed the house in such a way that it facilitates efficient air flow. The house has a double roof that has a ventilation space as well as windows at different heights. As a result, Tateh's houses are about 5ºC cooler than other houses in the area.

Sharing Tateh's Environmentally-Friendly House

The nearly-finished house
[Photo by Tateh Lehbib Breica]

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) took notice of Tateh's design and gave him a $62,460 grant. With this grant, Tateh was able to build 25 more houses in five Algerian refugee camps. These refugees, numbering 90,000, are currently living in the Algerian desert. Temperatures in this desert can reach over 50ºC in the summer, and it can be impossible to step out of houses in these harsh conditions.

Thus, the houses can be instrumental in keeping refugees safe from the harsh conditions of the deserts. People with disabilities, mental illnesses, and vulnerable families will be the ones living in the replicas of the environmentally-friendly house that Tateh built. The refugees, who seem have been consigned to living in the camps for a long time yet, will thus be able to be safer and more comfortable in the desert.

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