Don’t junk municipal and domestic waste. Use them to build a house or an office. A look at the researched methodologies by NANDHINI SUNDAR

We talk of using local and natural materials. We talk of recycling, reusing and reducing. We talk of orienting it right. We talk of green architecture. How about introducing one more to this green list? Like municipal and domestic waste in construction? Seems to be farfetched thinking? Perhaps. But if the construction methodologies of Architect Yatin Pandya of Foot Prints E.A.R.T.H are to be opted, it may not appear so.

Architect Yatin Pandya did extensive research for over three years on the various possibilities of using waste, both industrial and municipal, in construction that would not only serve to address the environment but also prove to be low cost to address rural and urban housing requirements while ensuring the resulting buildings are aesthetically pleasing too.

Pandya’s material use in construction not only includes rubble left in landfills, fly ash or discarded wooden crates, it also encompasses glass and plastic bottles, digital waste like monitors, keyboards, CDs, metal scrap, and broken tiles, to name a few. His multi-purpose activity centre built in Ahmedabad, to cater to the surrounding large squatter settlement, uses recycled municipal waste where they have been incorporated such that they continue to be aesthetically pleasing and serve as efficient building components. Thus, recycled glass and plastic bottles filled with fly ash and waste residue are used in the same manner as bricks for the walls.

Likewise, mould-compressed bricks made from landfill site waste residue, cement-bonded fly ash bricks, and stabilised soil blocks are used for constructing the walls. Discarded vegetable crate wood serves as wall panelling in the interiors.

The roof again uses filler slabs made from glass and plastic bottles, cement bonded particle board with clay tile cover as well as light conduit pipe truss with G.I. sheet covered with clay tiles. While bricks and stone slabs find their way on to the floors, the doors are panelled with shredded packaging wrapper and coated paper waste that serve as reinforcement substitute for Fibre Reinforced Plastic.

Discarded vegetable crates also find their way into doors as panels and also in ventilation for toilets where the frame of the ventilator is made from these crates.

Discarded oil tin containers are ripped to form blades that become louvers in the ventilators, replacing glass. The oil tin containers have also been used as frames in vegetable crate wooden doors in the toilets.

Fly ash and waste residue-moulded tiles have also been inlaid with ceramic industry waste to fashion the same as a china mosaic and these have also been used in patches to demonstrate their usability and aesthetics in buildings.

Likewise, scrap metal that has been discarded as waste has been salvaged and used on the gates in an aesthetic manner where they appear literally as a piece of art rather than reused metal.

Says Pandya, “The objective was to make use of the abundant waste in construction to address environmental issues as well as offer a low-cost technique of construction for local people with minimal training.” His multi-purpose activity centre has thus not spared the use of anything, be it tetra packs, packaging boards, cloth rags, gunny bags or CDs that households regularly fill their bins with.

“The local women and men who pick these waste for recycling too were roped in to contribute to the process of waste use in the construction,” he adds. Pandya vehemently believes that if this process was explored and ventured into on a mass scale where items like fly ash bricks are made available on a large scale and the local people are taught to use waste in construction, there is immense potential to use this technique for addressing low-cost housing amongst the poor.

“It requires awareness and initiative to take this forward and NGOs and the government play a key role in making this possible. This would in one stroke take care of housing needs, safe disposal of waste as well as the environment,” he contends.

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