Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
In January 2010 more than one million homes were destroyed by the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti and leveled over 250,000 homes. As you might recall, SPI suggested that the WaterBrick (an award-winning water storage container made of recyclable high-density polyethylene that doubles as blocks for shelters) might be of service in the aftermath of the disaster.
Although a year has passed since this devastating earthquake, recovery efforts are still underway. Recently I read a story about how plastic is being used to provide shelter for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. A Toronto-based company called Innovative Composites International (ICI) announced that they will build plastic houses for Haiti.
Since Haiti has a warm and tropical climate, wood is not an ideal housing material. What is needed is housing that can not only withstand the climate but also can stand strong during hurricanes and tremors. ICI’s technology involves combining high-strength fibers (such as fiberglass or Kevlar®) with a proprietary thermoplastic. The benefits of such technology over traditional building materials include superior strength to weight ratio, improved durability, complete recyclability, built-in insulation properties and formability. The design results in made-in-the-USA housing where the wall panels are one continuous piece, can be shipped in modules and assembled as-is with unskilled labor thereby providing potential employment opportunities for local communities. The house is rot, mold, rust and termite resistant.
In addition, ICI uses a rubber seal to attach the plastic structure to the concrete slab used as the foundation. The result is the structure “floats” atop the foundation in such a way it can compensate for movements in the earth directly below, while the production process allows it to hold up against winds in excess of 150 miles per hour.
This novel technology has resulted in ICI being named a finalist of the Building Back Better Communities housing competition in Port-au-Prince. The goal of the competition is to is to help rebuild communities and homes in Haiti. This type of plastics-based technology has the potential to provide affordable and safe housing around the globe. It is yet another example of plastics ingenuity having the potential to positively impact the world.