A House Built From Water Bottles?

I’m going out on a limb here – about to critique such an innovative, selfless, and environmentally-noble concept, but after watching this video, I think the idea is fundamentally flawed, and this amounts to little more than YouTube fodder.

I don’t disagree that the amount of plastic water bottles being disposed of every year is staggering, and tragic, and I understand that there is also a housing shortage in third world countries, but combining the two problems to create a solution is silly…


A client sent me this video about a week ago, and I didn’t make much of it at the time.  It kind of reminds me of that video I posted a while back about those portable homes for $25,000.

But then when a reader sent it to me on Monday, and I started to see it trending on Facebook, I figured what the heck – let’s take a look at it.

As I said in the intro – I know that plastic water bottles are a waste, and I know that third-world countries are in need of houses and schools, but the idea of building a house out of water bottles is ridiculous.

I don’t think the idea of re-using water bottles is ridiculous, but rather the presentation of this house being built in the video is comical, if we’re really to believe that this house is built from water bottles.

The house is built from sand, cement, steel, stucco, and of course: man-power.

The water bottles have very little, if anything, to do with this house.  They just serve to give meaning to the idea of building houses in third-world countries, in my opinion.

The video basically claims “these houses are built from water bottles,” but they’re leaving out everything else that goes into this.

It’s like when a Realtor claims, “This investment property pays for itself,” and chooses to ignore property taxes, mortgage interest, utilities, and an allowance for vacancy.

First of all, sand isn’t free.  Sand can be a commodity in many respects, and unless you live in the desert, it has a cost to it.  The video shows these people filling water bottles with sand, as if it were free, and readily available.  Let’s not forget that bricks are made of sand too.

Secondly, the video shows cement being applied to the layers of water bottles, just as it would be applied to bricks.  I see no difference here between a water-bottle-house and a brick-house, except that they’re trying to pretend that sand is free.

Thirdly, they’re using glass and wood for windows and doors, steel beams and plastic sheeting for the roof, tiles and cement for the flooring, and stucco for the exterior of the home.  These items are also not cheap, let alone free, and they make up a majority of the materials needed to build a home.

Lastly, the video completely ignores the largest expense in building a home: human labour.

From the website www.treehugger.com :

“To build a two bedroom, 1200 square foot home, it takes about 14,000 bottles.

The United States throws away enough plastic bottles to build 9,257 of these 2 bedroom houses per day! That’s just over 3.35 million homes, the same number of homeless people in America.”

Right.  So what’s the point?

You COULD build 9,257 of these homes per day, but you’d need to spend money on labour.

I mean, you’d also need to spend money on sand, cement, wood, glass, steel, tile, plastic, and a host of other products, but I think we already addressed that.

And there’s one more variable to add to the equation, just as we saw with the “portable houses for $25,000,” and that’s land.

Land isn’t free, no matter what country you’re looking at, and how poor and impoverished they are.

You have to build these water-bottle houses somewhere, and I’m sure there’s a cost associated with that as well.

Don’t even get me started on the cost of transporting these billions of water bottles from America to Africa…

So in the end, I think this video is little more than entertainment value, and the idea of a water-bottle house itself, while noble in theory, is fundamentally flawed.

I’m not against saving the environment, nor am I against ending poverty, but I am against wasting time.  And videos like this, which quite often are just used for fundraising, are misleading and a complete waste of effort.

Soooo…….what about using discarded plastic water bottles for water? 🙂


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  1. myeo says:

    Most of the alternative building techniques are like this. As you stated, they don’t account for labour, land, foundations and other essentials. I have found there are a lot of architects that are more interested in getting exposure in magazines and care far more about vanity than practicality. Don’t get me started on the worst culprit — “shipping container” homes.

    However, it should be noted that labour-intensive homes are perfect for the developing world. In countries in which labour is cheap relative to the cost of materials, alternative building styles can work. The modernization of old-school building techniques such as rammed earth or cob can be very practical with a small investment in modern building materials for the foundation and supporting structure. The biggest barrier to success is a lack of engineering and building skills.

  2. Philip says:

    Hippies gonna hip…