Canadian home buyers looking for something truly unique might one day be purchasing utilitarian houses made entirely of recycled plastic bottles. That is the goal of a firm that recently finished construction on a brand-new home located in Nova Scotia. The home was made from roughly 612,000 recycled bottles.
The home is now in the testing stage as a short-term rental. Designers and engineers want to better understand how both the interior and exterior stand up to real-world conditions. Assuming all goes well, ramped-up production could be in the future. This leads to a question: could homes be the next frontier for recycled carbon fiber too?
Making Panels from Bottles
JD Composites built their Nova Scotia home from panels fabricated from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same plastic that goes into making water and soda bottles. Their choice of PET was brilliant. PET is a material we already know possesses excellent properties for all sorts of fabrication. It seems like a material that would work well for creating construction panels.
Making the panels is a matter of melting down recycled bottles to create small beads. Those beads are then put through a typical extrusion process to create panels that can be used for all sorts of projects. This particular company chose to build a home. However the panels are deployed in the aerospace industry as well as others.
Given that extrusion is the primary method for creating the panels, it doesn’t seem out of the question that carbon fiber waste could be used in much the same way. As things currently stand, carbon fiber waste can be recycled by chopping or shredding it into small pieces which are then melted down to create similar beads. Those beads can be fabricated with extrusion or a typical injection mold process.
Strong Enough to Withstand a Hurricane
JD Composites says that one of the biggest advantages of its PET home is the structure’s ability to withstand hurricane force winds. Would the same be true of a home built from carbon fiber panels? Utah-based Rock West Composites seems to think so.
Rock West engineers explain that carbon fiber is stronger than both steel and aluminum. Recycled carbon fiber is not as strong as its virgin counterpart, but there is no reason to believe it would not still be exceptionally strong in a fabricated construction panel.
Imagine living in a coastal area where hurricanes are commonplace. Living in a carbon fiber structure could give you a real advantage over other local residents living in manufactured homes or traditionally built wooden homes.
Strictly Utilitarian Homes
It should be noted that composite homes, at least for the time being, are strictly utilitarian. They are not intended for new home buyers looking for a picture-perfect residence suitable for the cover of a popular home magazine. The prototype built in Nova Scotia certainly is not ugly to look at, but it will also not ever win any awards for beauty.
Utility should not be a problem for the key demographic these homes are intended for. Builders hope to sell them to young people looking for a home that is simple, energy-efficient, and able to withstand the worst punishment. These are millennial home buyers looking to avoid the excesses of their parents and grandparents.
Could home building be the next frontier for recycled carbon fiber? We’ll see. If the PET house in Nova Scotia lives up to expectations, there is no reason to believe a similar project featuring recycled carbon fiber couldn’t be managed. We could be on the verge of something big.