Disaster debris can become building blocks for a new life

Tue Jul 14, 2015 4:44pm EDT
 
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By Stella Dawson

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Amsterdam a mobile factory, the size of two shipping containers, ingests rubble at one end, liquefies it into cement and spurts out Lego-shaped building blocks.

Call it rubble for the people, converting the deadly debris from disasters into homes and hospitals, cheaply and quickly.

It's the brainchild of Gerard Steijn, a 71-year-old sustainable development consultant turned social entrepreneur, who leads the Netherlands-based project to recycle the rubble from natural disasters and wars.

He plans to create ecologically sound and safe housing by producing 750 building blocks a day from the debris, enough for one home at a cost of less than $20,000 each.

"In disasters, you have piles and piles of rubble, and the rubble is waste. If you are rich, you buy more bricks and rebuild your home," Steijn said in a telephone interview.

"But what happens if you are poor? In disasters it is the poorest people who live in the weakest houses and they loose their homes first. I thought, what if you recycled the rubble to build back better homes for poor people?"

His rubble-busting Mobile Factory has fired the imagination of a landowner in Haiti and a civil engineer at the University of Delft. They have joined forces to test Steijn's idea and build the first rubble community in Port au Prince next year.

But first they need money.   Continued...