The housing market tends to heat up when outside temperatures do, meaning that there are a number of people looking to buy or sell homes during this time of year. By the end of 2017, the national homeownership rate reached 64.2%, and those who are looking to buy often have more than mere curb appeal in mind. Today’s homebuyer often wants something smarter and more sustainable, as well as affordable. While you can’t always have it all, one Canadian homebuilder has figured out a way to make a new model both eco-friendly and weather resistant — albeit unconventional. The future of green, durable homes may be found in an unusual material: recycled plastic bottles.
As a society, we rely on plastics for nearly everything. The appliances and larger equipment we use on a regular basis may be made using the reaction injection molding process (which involves mixing two liquid components and injecting them into a mold wherein they chemically react and cure), while we transport and store food, personal items, and more in bags and containers made of plastics. Many of us even consume our beverages from bottles made of plastic. And while there’s been a push to eliminate these single use plastic items, there are those who are coming up with innovative ways to give those items a new life.
David Saulnier, cofounder of Canadian homebuilder JD Composites, is in that category. The company came up with a housing prototype that utilizes 600,000 recycled plastic bottles (which have been shredded and melted down) to form the walls of the 2,000-square-foot home that can be found in rural Nova Scotia.
The plastic bottles can’t be seen from the outside, as the walls are hidden underneath recycled aluminum siding that has been laser printed to give the appearance of natural wood. However, their positive effects can be felt in a number of ways. For one thing, the recycled plastic bottles actually provide greater insulation than what you’d find with traditional building materials. Although using window draperies can help to reduce heat loss in a given room by up to 10% during the wintertime, these walls will help homeowners save on heating and cooling year-round. And despite the lightweight feel of the home’s walls, they’re surprisingly strong; during a certification testing period, an eight-foot portion of the wall was able to withstand 326-mile-per-hour winds — meaning that the home will remain intact in a Category 5 hurricane (and then some).
At a time when climate change is on everyone’s minds, this unassuming home could tackle a number of problems related to environmental impact. Not only can it put recycled plastic bottles to good use and alleviate damage from extreme weather patterns (which are thought to be caused by worldwide climate change), but construction of homes like this could also eliminate unnecessary emissions related to the construction process. The panels can be assembled much faster than with normal home construction — builders completed the home’s walls in only seven hours and installed the roof the next day — and the design removes the need for framing, insulation, siding, nails, and roof shingles. And since the costs of construction are comparable to traditional home building and the energy efficiency pay-off has huge potential, this line of thinking could be a welcome solution for any would-be homeowner — whether they live in a storm-prone area or not.
The company hopes to bring these techniques to building projects in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America. For now, the first Canadian house-that-could will be rented out on Airbnb before being listed for sale. Considering the amount of plastic waste currently plaguing the planet, the sky could very well be the limit for these homebuilders — assuming that people will warm to the idea of having a home made of old soda and water bottles.