What’s in your walls: plastic, paper, carbon?

Five Indian architects adopting local, carbon negative, and alternative building materials

As we enter a post-pandemic reality, built environments are set to evolve even more — embracing both local sensibilities and cutting-edge technology.

Think upcycled wood, debris walls, plastic waste blocks, light generating cement, and air cleaning bricks. Research projects such as the one at Lancaster University a few years ago, which found that adding nanoplatelets of carrots and sugar beets ‘can strengthen concrete while reducing the volume of cement required’, are increasing too.

India, for one, is looking into bamboo and recycled/upcycled materials such as plastic, carbon, and rice husk. On the down side, however, many of these experiments don’t find a place in mainstream construction.

Experts say prohibitive testing and industrial production costs, the need for skilled labour and consumer willingness, to an extent, are to blame.

“There is resistance to trying the offbeat,” says Pavitra Sriprakash, director of Chennai-based Shilpa Architects Planners Designers, who encourages her clients to use tiles made of recycled plastic or PET bottles as panel walls.

What we need is more people adopting local, carbon negative, and alternative building materials. To spread the word, and to rethink old requirements. Here are five architects and engineers who are doing just that, and hopefully, paving the way for others to follow.

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