A House Made of Loofah
Social activist Elsa Aldivar along with Pedro Padros, an industrial engineer have devised an ingenious new sustainable building material. While searching for an earth friendly way for women in Paraguay to generate income, Aldivar thought of growing loofah sponges to be sold as cosmetic products. After noticing that there was a good amount of waste and unusable specimens, she tried using the waste loofah as a base for a building material. In combining waste plastic and the loofah material the duo stumbled upon a lightweight wood alternative.
But beyond being merely equivalent in price, it exceeds wood’s capabilities, with the ability to take dye during manufacture, making painting unnecessary. They are flexible, able to better withstand disaster situations. If they do fall, there’s less chance of injury, as they’re lighter weight. And they can be recycled, repeatedly. And with care in initial selection of plastics, when they can no longer be remade into housing material, they can be used as biofuel.
While totally viable as a building material in many environments far outside rural Paraguay, their ease of use, and ability to work with local, familiar materials like adobe makes them ideal for use locally, providing both shelter and income.
They are the winners of the Rolex Award for Enterprise, and with this, they’ll be building three demonstration homes and have a promotion center, where both urban and rural people will be able to learn about this innovative material.