When 28-year-old engineer Shriti Pandey quit her well-paying job at a US-based construction company to build homes out of agricultural waste in India, her family and friends were quick to express their skepticism.
However, three years since its inception, her startup Strawcture Eco has been credited with constructing two COVID-19 facilities in Bihar and Punjab, in addition to a labourers’ colony, classrooms for a 70-year-old school, as well as a government community kitchen and canteen, among other eco-friendly residential units.
Shriti’s company constructs fibre panels by combining agricultural waste and steel, and encases their core in three layers of recycled paper. The straw panels, which can sustain up to 100 years, contain micro-pores that absorb and retain humidity until outdoor weather conditions improve.
The entrepreneur says her priority is constructing affordable houses in rural India. “An acre worth of residue can fetch the farmers up to Rs 25,000 and reduce air pollution by preventing stubble burning. Every 10×4 feet panel uses around 100 kilos of straw. It’s a win-win situation,” said Shriti, adding that around 15,000 kilos of waste is repurposed for building a 100 square feet house.