Instead of throwing bottles in a landfill, Erasmus Mundus scholarship-winner and graduate Tateh Lehbib Braica has found an innovative way to build homes for refugees in south-west Algeria. Costing less than a mud hut, the Saharawi engineer creates shelters with the hope of easing the suffering of those who had to flee their homes.
By piling up around 5 500 bottles, Tateh can build a home that is resistant to the harsh weather in the Saharawi refugee camps and costs around €250 – a quarter of the price of building a mud-brick house.
Thanks to the knowledge acquired during his Master’s Degree on energy efficiency at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain and with a great deal of personal effort, he has managed to create highly-resistant shelters made out of discarded bottles filled with sand and tightly-pressed straw, covered with cement and limestone.
According to his coordinator, Valentina Grasso: “his Master’s results were excellent: he got full marks for his thesis on improving energy efficiency in refugee camps.”
His first house was designed for his grandmother and himself, and weeks later the United Nations Agency for Refugees funded his next 25 homes in 5 neighbouring camps: Awserd, Boujdour, Dakhla, Smara and Laayoune.
Tateh chose to use water bottles as it is a basic, inexpensive material that can resist the pitiless weather conditions of South-West Algeria. He fills them with sand and tightly-pressed straw to give the building block greater resistance and walls are then covered with cement and limestone, and painted white to reflect the sun’s rays and keep room temperatures cool.
His project keeps growing and gaining international recognition – he has recently received an award for 2016 Personality of the Year from a local magazine. His goal is to build a house for each family in the Algerian camps.