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Built of recycled materials, but is it "green"? Answered

Construction is nearing completion in Taipei of a plastic bottle building.

Technically a temporary structure, "the world's lightest, movable, breathable environmental miracle" (say the designers) is also strong enough to withstand typhoons and earthquakes.  The building will eventually become an exhibition space.

Much is being made of the structure's "green" credentials - LED lighting, and particularly the construction material; 1,500,000 recycled PET bottles.

That sounds great, and in most of the news coverage of the structure (such as the BBC and Treehugger) it sounds like the building is built directly of bottles that have been re-shaped somehow (maybe squashed in a heated mould).  The bottles even have lids, and they talk about filling them with air, water or sand to change the thermal properties of the building..

It turns out, though, that the building material is not "PET bottles", but "PET bottles chopped up, melted and re-formed into much thicker-walled bottles intended solely for building", branded as Polli-Bricks.

OK, still recycled, still greener than most building materials, but it smacks of spin to just say the building is built of bottles.

The Polli-Bricks are impressive - individually nice to look at, and fitting together snugly "like Lego" - but there is no indication of how much energy is spent creating them.  They are made by Hymini, but the Hymini website flashes up all sorts of alarms with my firewall and anti-virus as an "attack site".  There is more information at Miniwiz as well, but some of the links there also trigger alarms.

Maybe I'm being a wet blanket.

It is a nice building, after all.

What do you think?




GreenMuze article

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Brikbat (author)2010-04-23

Looks like the Polli-Brick idea is all about recycled/post consumer. Here's what they were saying about it last year before the building came out.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/eastasia/view/437837/1/.html

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screengreen (author)2010-04-20

The EcoARK building does not use any airconditioning. It uses passive cooling which is great for the environment. This way it lowers it's carbon emissions drastically. The thing with Polli-Brick is that it has a very low carbon footprint. Transportation, Production, assembly of Polli-Bricks possibly will give off maybe 1/2 the carbon emissions compared to other conventional construction materials and can preform as well as or better than any other translucent construction material.

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Brikbat (author)2010-04-18

There is a lot online about the Polli-Brick right now because they just launched that building. But, architecture forums are asking a lot of the questions that are being asked in this discussion. These are good issues and they all get to the two (in my opinion) biggies: energy efficiency and carbon footprint/atmospheric impact. On the latter, not enough is being said. To really know the situaion, we have to weigh carbon footprint for things like Polli-Brick vs. atmospheric Nitrous Oxide arising from agriculture and, from this, post agricultural building materials. I have a feelng that Polli-Brick or any recycled plastic building material actually wins on that score. For energy efficiency, another forum has worked out that the Polli-Brick used in Taiwan has an R value of 7 using just air insulation. That's pretty good. The question then becomes, how high can Polli-Brick go if it is used in a colder climate -- and what might make it so. What's interesting is that so few people are posting about the lack of aircon systems used in that Polli-Brick building. There's an interesting story there. But, nobody seems to be sharing. Anybody here have the skinny on this?

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Kiteman (author)Brikbat2010-04-18

I simply never thought to ask - air con is not upper-most in a UK energy discussion.

It was not mentioned in any article I saw.

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Brikbat (author)Kiteman2010-04-20

All of the articles out there right now just talk about Polli-Brick, that the building is recycled. There are a few snippets about the cooling system; not much. Here's one: http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=39572

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intothedark (author)2010-04-19

I've seen on some forums that this building has some kind of water fall to help with cooling. But how effective is this? I've never seen a building actually use a waterfall this way...

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Kryptonite (author)2010-04-18

Doesn't seem fully "green", maybe light green.

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RadBear (author)2010-04-17

And no it isn't green. It appears to be grey in the pictures.

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RadBear (author)2010-04-17

Sounds like a good idea that has been subjected to marketing spin in order to try and make it into something grand.

You mentioned that they could fill it with water or sand to chaneg thermal properties. Do they have to fill them individually before construction or can they fill them en masse once the structure is complete?

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Jayefuu (author)2010-04-16

Would be interesting to know the difference between making them from virgin plastic, recycled plastic and building the same building from concrete...

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gmjhowe (author)Jayefuu2010-04-16

 Isn't concrete made from recycled building materials? And breeze blocks are recycled from a waste product.

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lemonie (author)gmjhowe2010-04-17

What are you thinking of?
SO2 scrubbing goes into plasterboard I think, steel-slag can be used for roads, it's fly-ash I think.

L

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Kiteman (author)gmjhowe2010-04-16

However, the manufacture and use of concrete (as it sets) releases a lot of CO2.

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gmjhowe (author)Kiteman2010-04-16

 Well most modern buildings are breeze blocks, which are made from a scrap material that was useless until somebody invented breeze blocks.

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PKM (author)2010-04-16

Well, providing the new bottles take less energy/resources to make than bricks or glass and steel for an equivalent amount of building, they win on the "reduce" part.  If the PET used is also PET that has already been through a lifecycle as a bottle, even better ("recycle" as well).  Those PET bottles would presumably otherwise have been waste product, so any reuse of the hydrocarbon content is a good thing.

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