Architect uses discarded plastic bags in building foundations

September 26th: Architect Chitra Vishwanath’s mud-stabilised buildings use plastic waste in an innovative way. For more than a decade now, her company ‘Biome’ has been sourcing plastic covers from heaps of garbage to use in the foundation, plinth and roof. “Anybody who is committed to eco-sanitation will think of ways and means to use plastics that are an eyesore in public places, often leach into the soil and ruin fertility,” says Ms. Vishwanath, who is known for her strong take on the ecological footprint in her constructions.

“We have to evolve from just rubbishing garbage to landfills,” she says. “We try to look into strewn plastic covers, tumblers and plates and begin to see a role for them.”

Beneath the foundation of her buildings lie thousands of these plastic bags protecting the groundwork from dampness and termites. “The lower grade plastic used for covers cannot be down cycled further. So the best thing is to put them to a different use,” she says.

The A-biotic environment below the foundation, a place where nothing ‘living’ exists, is laid with plastic covers “to arrest the ingress of water through capillary action from the bottom. This is particularly useful in low lying areas that tend to hold much more water.”

While the plinth is handled with a filling of building debris, waste thermocol and waste plastics are also converted into corrugated roofing sheets. In a re-building project in Shankarapuram, Ms. Vishwanath used 80 per cent of the demolished construction debris. She not only created a highlight wall from the stones recovered, but saved nearly 10 lakh on the 90-lakh allotted budget with her re-use ideas.

Ms. Chitra says plastic covers are shockingly aplenty in garbage, mirroring our unsustainable lifestyle. But recovering them is something that even her co-employees personally contribute to at Biome. The areas surrounding her project is rid of plastic covers from garbage heaps. “Architects should forward sustainable ideas and designs to builders. Unfortunately the lacuna lies there,” says Ms. Chitra.

Source: The Hindu