Monday, June 28th, 2010

The EcoArk: Recycling Ingenuity and 1.8 Million Bottles

A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting in which a presenter discussed our nation’s need to strive for a more sustainable future. Arguing that sustainability is not a new concept, the presenter showed an image of a glass bottle house located in the Calico Ghost Town, and noted that we need to recapture the ingenuity of the past in order to essentially save the world.

According to this web site devoted to bottle houses, it is unclear whether the Calico Bottle House was created in Calico, brought there from another ghost town, or is actually just a modern reproduction. But it is generally understood that short of building materials, early mining camp settlers made their shelters out of whatever they could — including discarded bottles from the town’s saloon. 

Although I would argue that the ingenuity of the past was often more of an exercise in survival rather than sustainability, I still appreciated the speaker’s illustration and would make the case that we are already replicating those triumphs. Whether it is transforming a plastic bag into low-maintenance fencing, a plastic soda bottle into the 111 Navy Chair, or any of the recycled plastic products we’ve spotlighted on this blog, our society continues to recycle and re-purpose items that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

In fact, a recent article describes what I consider the next generation of the glass bottle house, the EcoArk. Commissioned by the Far Eastern Group for the 2010 Taipei International Expo, this 278’ X 131’ X 85’ structure is constructed of roughly 1.8 million recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Using the Polli-Brick, a recycled polymer architecture brick developed by Hymini, these interlocking bricks are supposedly strong enough to withstand storms or earthquakes and yet so easy to disassemble, that the EcoArk is expected to be reassembled elsewhere after the Expo.  Can you see it at NPE2012?

Yet beyond its strength and interesting honeycomb look, the Polli-Brick is  designed to offer exquisite thermal and sound insulation, and its translucent design will not only allow natural light to filter through the material, but also offer the consumer the ability to use the brick for creative lighting. Oh, and did I mention the cost? Arthur Huang, the engineer behind the EcoArk, estimated that his building  is one-third less expensive than if it had been constructed using conventional methods.

While I highly doubt that architects will embrace the Polli-Brick, at least in the near term, I do believe that it is one impressive step towards developing a more sustainable nation.

One Response to “The EcoArk: Recycling Ingenuity and 1.8 Million Bottles”

  1. I hope you are wrong. But, let’s remember that the Far Eastern Group is in Taiwan and that all Asian countries are more open to new ideas and the blogosphere has a lot of mentions about Polli-Brick buildings in China, Singapore, Taiwan and other places. So, if non-Asian architects don’t pick up this new idea, too bad for them!

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