Recycled plastic housing resists earthquakes, hurricanes, rot, insects and mould


January 10, 2011

The ECO:Shield housing system is suitable for temporary use in disaster areas or for areas where affordable permanent housing is required

The ECO:Shield housing system is suitable for temporary use in disaster areas or for areas where affordable permanent housing is required

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Each year natural disasters and civil unrest leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless throughout the world. Many of these crises occur in developing nations where traditional building materials are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and where the focus is often on staying alive, not maintenance of a home. The ECO:Shield system from Innovative Composites International Inc. (ICI) may present a welcome solution. The earthquake and hurricane resistant houses use recyclable materials and according to ICI, are cheaper than both conventional and other modular constructions. They are energy efficient and durable – resisting moisture, insects, rot and mould. And they can be constructed quickly using unskilled labor: an 8' x 16' (2.4 x 4.9 meters) ECO:Shield house can be assembled in less than 45 minutes with standard tools.

ICI is part of a consortium bidding to construct housing in Haiti, following the earthquake there a year ago.

Terry Ball, ICI's founding Chief Executive said, "We've developed a bunch of products that take high-strength fibers, we combine them with low-cost plastics and provide structural applications to replace steel, concrete and wood with something that lasts [longer], is stronger, lighter and is completely recyclable."

The housing is based on composite panels. A rubber seal is used to attach the plastic structure to the concrete slab used as the foundation (other foundations can also be used), enabling the house to "float" above the foundation and provide flexibility in high winds or earthquakes.

The panels provide seamless construction, minimizing the risk of air leaks, and provide an insulation level of R7.6-R17.

An open interior floor plan negates the need for load-bearing walls, and any interior walls that are used can be easily moved to customize the floor plan.

The ability to use unskilled labor allows local populations to take ownership of building their own homes and other facilities such as schools, offices and hospitals.

And as quickly as the ECO:Shield goes up it can be easily disassembled and transported if it is to be moved to another disaster zone. The 8 x 16-foot house can be folded to a height of just 17-inches (43 cm).

ECO:Shield is also suitable for permanent housing in areas where there is low affordability for home ownership. Because of the durability of the materials used, ICI promises decades of longevity.

ICI also offers the ECO:Scape, a larger scale housing solution which enables two-storey constructions but can also be assembled by unskilled labor.

InnoVida also offer a composite panel emergency housing system that is being used to help rebuilding efforts in Haiti following the tragic earthquake of almost exactly one year ago which killed an estimated 230,000 people and left 1,000,000 homeless.

Via Financial Post


The summer sun would eat this house within a few short years in Phoenix, AZ.. Sun rot! High heat will diffuse all the nasty chemicals into the home for the occupants to breathe in. No sale!


OK, maybe I didn\'t even read this article, but I have never understood how people condemn plastic for NOT being biodegradable. To me, that is its\' strong point. Making houses from water bottles seems a great idea to me. Compare it to traditional wood structures that rot, become bug infested, needs paint that flakes off to keep it looking good and certainly destroys trees and I would think a plastic house that would last forever is good idea.

Robert Fox

Recycled plastics may contain PVC and chlorine compunds such as dioxin that can diffuse into the house at high temperatures.

Akemai Olivia

Great, a big container to throw a human into and subject it to outgassing. The hurricane won\'t get you but the cancer will.

Paul Anthony

I get conflicting information in the article. Is the material made from recycled materials, or is it recycleable? Big difference.


I choose to believe the developers did NOT pour arsenic and cobra venom into a mold and say \"Voila! A new home!\" As such, I believe this is a fantastic product, and not only for crisis situations. This could be a great, low-cost, easily-transportable solution for temporary work sites.


But how much does it cost? What good is a housing system that costs $100 / sq ft to a person in Haiti who might make $100/month if they are lucky?

Nick Thompson
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