100% RECYCLED PLASTIC, THE NEW SOLUTION TO HOUSING DEFICIT IN AFRICA
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Images by JDS Architects & Othalo
Would you live in a plastic home? This is a question asked by Engineer Frank Cato Lahti who discovered that by building structures from recycled material, he put an end to Africa’s housing crisis. According to Lahti as stated on Othalo website, “There are 160 million homes, housing deficiency.” “But in 2050 it’s predicted to be 360 million.” This is why the founder of OTHALO, a Norwegian start-up, Engr. Frank Cato Lahti came up with a revolutionary technology to curb this problem.
Since the beginning the continent of Africa has been facing a housing deficit, a situation that seems beyond the control of the government of many African countries. Over time innovative thinkers around the world have suggested different kinds of solutions which were often missed or overlooked. However, as efforts continue, another new solution based on an idea from the inventive mind of Julien De Smedt, founder of JDS Architects who joined forces with Othalo, a Norwegian start-up that has developed a patented technology that makes it possible to produce building elements from 100% recycled plastic. The two companies entered into a partnership with UN Habitat, known as the United Nations program for human settlements and sustainable urban development, two years ago.
Othalo said their focus is to construct affordable housing, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Following a report that nearly one billion people are currently living in slums and in the African region alone, the urgent need for low-cost housing is over 160 million units, a number that is expected to increase to 360 million by 2050 as a result of rapid urbanization. It’s recorded that since 1950, more than 9 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced globally, of which only 9% is recycled. A 60 square meter (645sqf) Othalo house recycles eight tonnes of plastic waste. This means that with today’s plastic waste, more than 1 billion houses can be built. In less than two years, Othalo is currently working on their first series of building elements and designs for low-cost homes and mass production started this year.
In collaboration with architect Julien De Smedt, Engr. Lahti designed the patented technology that can use plastic waste from a variety of sources, including landfills, oceans, and people’s homes to produce a housing unit. Once shredded and mixed with other non-flammable elements, a 60-square-metre home can be built using over eight metric tonnes of recycled plastic. The different materials are used to reinforce each other to construct sturdy buildings and according to Engr. Lahti, “One production line is expected to produce up to 5 000 homes per year.” “It makes a dent in the housing need and it makes a dent in the plastic waste problem.”
Through his inventive idea, Engr. Lahti will solve more problems, apart from placing a roof over people’s heads, he will empower low-income communities by creating jobs in the process. His work will not only achieve environmental justice, but uphold the human right to adequate housing. “Dare to be the one that stands out,” Lahti says. “It is a lonely journey, but if you don’t believe in yourself and your dream nobody else will.”
Edited by MJ for Buildace Magazine