Building With Plastic Bottles
What could you do with one and a half million plastic bottles? Arthur Huang constructed a nine-story building with them! He called it the EcoArk. It’s a special name for a special building in Taiwan, Asia.
The EcoArk is a sleek, modern structure that really catches the eye. From a distance, you might think it’s made of glass, with white dots decorating the outer walls in a repeating pattern. But up close, you see that those dots are actually bottle caps! They cap some of the plastic bottles that make up the walls. There is no glass.
The bottles that make up the walls of the EcoArk are not your ordinary plastic bottles. They are called Polli-Bricks. They are made of recycled plastic from water bottles, soft drink bottles, and other plastic containers that were thrown away. The plastic trash was chopped up and melted down. Huang and his team invented a way to reshape and strengthen the melted plastic into a new type of building blocks that are shaped like bottles.
The Polli-Bricks have grooves so that they fit together tightly and lock in place. They are assembled into panels about the size of large windows. A coating on the panels helps protect against fire and the weather. The panels weigh one-fifth as much as panels made of glass or other materials, yet they are incredibly strong. The strength comes from the honeycomb pattern made by the interlocking bottles.
The grooved Polli-Bricks lock together to form panels.
These kinds of safety features are a must for the EcoArk. That’s because it was built in a part of the world that experiences some of nature’s most extreme forces. It’s located in Huang’s homeland of Taiwan. This island off the coast of mainland China is rocked every year by dozens of earthquakes strong enough to shake buildings. In addition, several violent storms, called typhoons, batter Taiwan during the summer months. Huang’s structure stands up to earthquakes that crumble other buildings. The EcoArk braves the howling winds and pounding rains of typhoons with no damage.
The Polli-Brick panels are lightweight but strong. Huang demonstrates by jumping up and down on them.
Huang designed the EcoArk to be eco-friendly—in other words, to not harm the environment. The Polli-Brick walls use plastic trash that would otherwise end up in landfills or as litter on the ground, in rivers, or in the ocean.
The Polli-Bricks keep the EcoArk eco-friendly in other ways, too. The bottles are filled with air. Heat doesn’t pass through air easily, so the bottles help keep heat from entering the building. That’s important in a place like Taiwan that has long, sweltering summers.
Huang's Polli-Bricks are made out of plastic bottles.
Most buildings use a lot of electricity for air conditioning, and that electricity usually comes from burning oil, coal, or natural gas at a power plant. Burning these fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide and other gases to the air.
The gases trap energy from the sun, which keeps our planet warm enough to support life. It’s called the greenhouse effect. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Burning fossil fuels has added a lot of heat-trapping gases to the air, increasing the greenhouse effect. That increase has warmed Earth’s air temperatures in many places. As a result, some climates around the world have begun to change. Huang didn’t want to contribute to that problem with this building.