Shelters for All Update

Craftsman Plastic Bottle Wall House (click to enlarge)
Craftsman Plastic Bottle Wall House (click to enlarge)

I asked for reader’s input in my previous blog post about the Shelters for All affordable housing contest. They’re seeking 700-1,100 sq. ft. one story house designs for the poorest in urban areas.

Unless I get another flash of inspiration, I’ve settled on the Craftsman house plan. I’ve made dozens of changes to suit the requirements of this contest. The main thing you’ll notice is the walls are not earthbag. I’ve decided on plastic bottle walls for this particular project. Earthbag is still a top choice in most cases, but I’m sure the contest jurors want thin walls that take up less space. The plastic bottle walls use bamboo, wood poles or concrete posts to create a post and beam structure that can withstand earthquakes. Bamboo is my first choice due to its sustainability. Bamboo is renewable, fast growing, produces oxygen and habitat, and only requires minimal processing. It’s not always available, of course, so I’m open to using wood poles or concrete posts as necessary.

Other changes to the design include outdoor laundry, lofts above the kid’s bedrooms for extra sleeping space for extended family, front porch with benches, garden, rain barrels, solar hot water, small solar panel, shower instead of bathtub and many other small details. I look forward to hearing your feedback. Please post your comments below.

7 thoughts on “Shelters for All Update”

  1. There are many types of Bamboo. Example the “Guadua Bamboo” is native to Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia. It is considered the “Vegetable Iron”. Multiple considerations need to be given on how/when to cut the Bamboo. There is a drying process and other procedures that need to be followed. Ultimately immunization of the Bamboo is a must. You need to know its advantages and disadvantages. As Owen said, vast information on this can be found on the internet. In particular the Colombians are the Masters working with Bamboo. We here in Panama are still in baby pampers when it comes to working with this wonderful product. The majority knowledge here is limited to use the Bamboo for fencing or Wall frames for Adobe (untreated). This structures here are called “Casa de Quinchas”. Here an interesting webpage and video about how they do these structures.ón-ecolog%C3%AD-econom%C3%AD-y-valores-en-panamá

  2. You mention working with and “minimally processing” bamboo. I’ve been using bamboo for a while now but have no idea on how to preserve it. Just using it in the garden for fences, plant stakes and whatnot. Is there a specific method to preparing to preserve? JV

    • Google ‘preserve bamboo’ or something similar. All the details are on the Internet. Options include soaking in a lake or river, soaking or pressure treating in borax solution or smoking.

  3. Area: 23′ x 40′ = 920 sq. ft.

    I was really inspired by the plastic bottle walls on the Somos Project.

    They use plastic bottle walls only for interior walls. I decided to use plastic bottle walls for interior and exterior walls.

    Another compelling reason for using plastic bottle walls is because local communities have enthusiastically accepted and supported this building method. Hug it Forward, for example, has already built 14 schools this way. Children, women, men, young and old, with or without prior building experience, have all jumped in to help. Besides gaining homes and schools, this method helps eliminate trash in the community. Be sure to read more about Hug it Forward and watch their video:


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