Prashant and Aruna, who started Bamboo House India in 2008, have been making bamboo houses and various other products from bamboo for a number of years. Recently, the residents of Swaroop Nagar, the colony that they live in, felt the need for a bus shelter. Taking it up as a challenge, the Bamboo House India team came up with a plan to make one with pet bottles and bamboo.
Using 1,000 pet bottles, an 8×4 foot bus shelter was put together by the team. The frame of the bus shelter was made with bamboo beams and has empty bottles strung together vertically with a rope running through them, which helps to hold them in place.
“The bus shelter in this colony is adjacent to a bamboo grove and hence the branches of the tall grass gives the shelter a natural roofing. We are waiting to see how the pet bottles take to the wear and tear from soaring summer temperatures and also the heavy monsoon rains that will follow soon,” says Prashant Lingam.
There are gaps between the bottles for air to circulate in the bus shelter. This helps to keep the place cool.
Recently, the municipal commissioner visited the colony to see this construction. Impressed with their work, he has expressed a wish to have such easy-to-erect bus shelters in more colonies across the city. Since this is just an experiment and not what Prashant and Aruna really set out to do, they would like to share their expertise with the residents of any colony and get them to volunteer to work on their own bus shelters.
Constructions with bamboo is what really interests this couple that co-owns Bamboo House India. A couple of years ago the two wanted to build an extra office room in their premises, and decided to get into something really offbeat – constructing with pet bottles – and this has become their new penchant.
It was a real challenge to go into pet bottle construction as there is very little knowledge or expertise on this. Such constructions are popular in many other parts of the world, but not commonly heard of in India. Since they already had some knowledge of bamboo constructions, they decided to go ahead on their own.
Prashant, Aruna and the entire Bamboo House India team got involved in the construction of the new office room.
It took a long time as they experimented with the pet bottles to the maximum. They made one wall with the bottles in a horizontal position and another laid out vertically. The frame work was of bamboo and chicken mesh was used to keep the bottles in place. Plastering had to be done with a thick layer of mud and then with cement.
At first they used empty pet bottles but realized it was not a good idea as these bottles got crushed under mud and cement after plastering. So they broke down the wall and filled the bottles with mud to help make it sturdy.
“The walls of the room were ill-treated as much as possible and we found that a completed wall can take a lot of stress and misuse – and yet stand strong and sturdy. Drilling nails into the walls was also not a problem,” says Prashant.
Finally the 15×15 feet room was completed, using 7,000 pet bottles.
Pet bottle constructions work out a lot cheaper than the regular brick ones. Firstly, the bottles cost much lesser and plastering is not all cement, so that cuts down the costs too.
Surprisingly, procuring empty discarded pet bottles was the hardest task of all. The scrap dealers would only provide them 10 bottles at a time and when they realized we needed empty bottles, they hiked up their rates from Rs 1/- to Rs 10/-. Another major issue was finding a mason to help with the construction. Since the bottles are circular, plastering is a lot tougher than rectangular bricks.
“The wall in which the bottles were placed vertically was a real challenge, especially when we came to the stage of reinforcements to the wall. A horizontal layout is comparatively much easier. We also tried different sizes of bottles – like 500 ml, 1 litre and 2 litre and found that it is very tough to construct with 2 litre bottles, as they are much larger,” adds Prashant
Three years down the line, they broke down the room to figure out how tough it was to destroy a pet bottle construction. They found that it was indeed very difficult to break it down — they broke through the plastering and then each bottle had to be removed from the walls.
Finally, since they were stuck with many bottles, they reused them to construct a water tank.
Around 5,000 of these bottles were used to make the water tank, which is used to help cure the bamboo used for construction and other work.
The plan for the bus shelter came up around the time the duo was experimenting with the remaining pet bottles. A stray idea to paint the bottles and use them to make garden fences also occurred to them a couple of weeks ago.
“People use various materials to build fences to protect their gardens from stray animals. Some have made brick walls, while others have used wire mesh. We made one with discarded pet bottles in our garden and find that it serves the purpose just as well. We colored the bottles just for fun, however, this really is not a necessity,” says Prashant.
A garden fence, which is different from all others, made of discarded material – painted pet bottles
Bus shelters are a major requirement in almost all the colonies of the city. Prashant hopes to get corporate houses to fund these bus shelters and the children residing in the colonies to get involved in building them. They are willing to share their expertise, particularly that of the pet bottle constructions, with anyone interested.
So make the best use of discarded pet bottles that are seen littered any and everywhere; clogging drains and landfills.
Prashant and Aruna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Aparna Menon is a freelance writer, writing for various newspapers for the past 10 years. Her main fields of interest are wildlife, heritage and history. A keen traveller, she loves to read and write and does a lot of art work too.