While it generally falls under the “scourge” category, bottled water plays an indispensible role in disaster recovery efforts. It’s also one of the first, if not the first, thing to appear after a disaster, natural or manmade, strikes — truckloads of the stuff can show up hours, sometimes days, before the medicine, the clothing, the back-up generators, the supplies, and the endless FEMA paperwork arrive on the scene. It’s one of those rare occasions when a not-so-necessary evil is rendered absolutely necessary.

 
And more often than not, these thousands upon thousands of plastic water bottles distributed to and discarded by disaster survivors end up being added to what is undoubtedly already a huge — perhaps catastrophic —mess. Realizing that a.) bottled water is generally super-quick to arrive at relief sites and b.) the consumed and discarded bottles are generally not recycled or reused considering the sometimes dire circumstances surrounding their deployment, a student team from the School of Architecture & Design at the New York Institute of Technology have conceived a prototype disaster relief shelter with a “durable, climate-appropriate” roofing system constructed from, you guessed it, upcycled plastic water bottles.
 
Specifically designed for tropical climates where emergency shelters are often topped with tarps or corrugated metal roofs, the NYIT team’s Cradle to Cradle-influenced Home2O Roof — or SodaBIB (Bottle Interface Bracket) — system is an inventive “sustainable up-cycling strategy” guided by the basic notion that “at any place that people will receive emergency water, they will be in need of shelter too.”
 
 
Once consumed, the empty water bottles are crushed and  affixed, sans tools or fasteners, to a custom plastic pallet developed by the NYIT team in an overlapping fashion a la Spanish tile. The roofing system protects the inside of the shelter from rain and moisture but at the same time allows for passive cooling. Of course, this method of reusing a readily available resource prevents (or at least delays) heaps of trashed water bottles from forming around relief sites — petrochemical-based mountains that will eventually find their way into landfills or the surrounding natural environment.
 
The system takes allows post-consumer plastic bottles to become ventilated, day-lit, low-maintenance shelter using minimal tools and labor.  The Home2O shipping pallet de-laminates into linear brackets that hold crushed, PET water bottles as roof tiles. The system arrays and interlocks layers of bottles to create a breathable, weather-resistant membrane. 
 
The Home2O team recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help supplement a grant that allowed the team to purchase building materials and testing equipment for a full-scale modular prototype structure which, if all goes as planned, will be constructed in a "publicly accessible, highly visible location” on NYIT’s Old Westbury campus before going on tour with stops at numerous public venues around New York City. The funds will also enable the team to launch outreach campaigns.
 
"When we reach our fundraising goal and build the full-scale shelter, students and visitors will immediately understand the concept of up-cycling, or changing what some consider waste materials into a higher and better use — in this case, shelters for poor nations hit by disasters,” explains Jason Van Nest, Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture.
 
I’m happy to share that the team has surpassed the initial $4,000 crowdfunding goal and will be able to move forward with the next step in the development of Home2O. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the prototype evolve and, eventually, see some real-world action.

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