Monthly Archives: February 2011

A Plea for help

We have been honored by an invitation to display at a very important event in Dallas in April.  As of right now we plan on having a finished shelter designed by Ronald Omyonga.  He will design and we will build an example of a shelter made for Nairobi Kenya.  We also want to have at least one plastic block press onsite with materials for visitors to participate in making recycled plastic blocks.

As most of you already know styrofoam and film (grocery sacks) plastics are not wanted for traditional recycling.  At most recycling centers that handle home pick up recycling these items are sorted and then sent to the landfill.  Allied Waste aka Republic Recycling center in Plano Texas will give me recyclable plastics for the blocks.  I don’t want to use that because I want to use the stuff that is destined for the landfill.

That’s where I need help.  If you live in the north east of Dallas area, close to Wylie, and you want to participate I want your film plastics, grocery bags etc.  I also want your clean styrofoam stuff.  This can be anything from peanuts used in packing, the big foam blocks that protect electronics during shipping, to go foam dishes and cups, foam and film plastic packages for groceries like meats and vegetables, and let’s not forget those foam egg cartons. 

I want them clean if at all possible.  It won’t take you but a minute to rinse them off before you bag them for me.  The reason for that is the blocks made with these products will be handled by the public, specifically college students. 

As more information becomes available we will pass it on about the event.  It is an unbelievable opportunity for us and we want it to take full advantage of the exposure.  If we can build the shelter and demonstrate with stuff destined for the landfill because it doesn’t already have recyclable value it will be even better.

One more thing, we get about two  to two and a half blocks from each large green plastic trash bag of material.  If you want to see the process and participate making blocks we would appreciate that help too.  Especially if you bring along the kiddos.  That would be the best thing of all, starting them young to be responsible consumers and citizens. 

One other thing while you’re feeling so generous, I want to share some of these blocks with the public for them to use to share the vision of making homes for the third world that are good homes.  Not just shelters, homes.

The First Wall

I built the first wall yesterday.  I wanted it to be portable so that I can move it around if necessary.  So instead of building a concrete foundation I built one out of steel.  The objective is to build the wall.

The wall is six feet long and four foot high.  It has a two by six that is six feet long as a top plate. 

As of right now, Feb 22, 2011, I can’t see a secure wall created with the recycled plastic blocks without rebar verticals.  For this wall I placed two at each end spaced the same distance apart as the wire that is securing the blocks.  I also placed two mid span that will fit outside of the plastic blocks.

The bottom course of blocks was placed on the foundation.  Then I placed doubled fourteen gauge galvanized steel wire between the end rebar verticals.  Each block was secured at least one to each doubled wire with a wire tie.  Then I placed a doubled fourteen gauge glavanized steel wire across the mid span rebar verticals with the end to end wires passing between.

The wire ties to the blocks were the only wires secured tightly at this point.  After two more courses were laid down on top of the bottom course I went back and pulled and tightened the wires between all the different rebars.  This post tensioning step that is critical.  The blocks are lightweight.  They won’t stay in place without the wire.  They won’t be secured in place without the tightening of the wires.  Once the wires are tightened the wall becomes substantial feeling.  I repeated the process of tightening the course two courses below as I added each new course.

There has to be a top plate for attaching the roof.  The top plate is also critical for the recycled plastic block wall to make it more secure.  I used screws into the steel when securing the top plate to the wall in this sample.  In a concrete foundation there needs to be loops placed for securing the top plate to the wall.

I used the tensioning tool we designed to tighten the wires securing the recycled plastic blocks to tighten the top plate wire.  The top plate wire goes over the top plate from one side of the foundation to the other.  The effect is amazing.  It is also necessary because the blocks are so lightweight.

I put some plaster on the wall to see how it would work.  It will work great as you can see.

Progress has been made

It seems like only yesterday while at the same time it seems like it was last year when Ronald Omyonga challenged me to come up with a building product from plastic trash.  The reality is today, February 20, 2011 is day 104.  Less than a hundred days ago I woke up dreaming of making building blocks by baling them like one would bale straw or hay.  Seventy days ago we made our first block.  Today we made our first half block.  Half blocks are just as important as full blocks.

We need half blocks because our full blocks can’t be cut without losing their integrity.  We can’t use standard staggering of blocks to create structural strength without having half blocks.  Now we have a method for making half blocks.

What I wanted was a spacer that would displace half of a block in the recycled plastic block press.  I thought about it for awhile and this is what we have.

A single pin attaches it to the compression plate.  A nail, cotter key, or even a piece of wire is all it takes to hold it in place because the only pressure is the weight of the spacer itself on retraction.

The more I work with this press the more I like it.  I’ve fielded lots of questions about automating it with hydraulics.  I’m using an impact wrench instead of a ratchet to speed up the compression process.  It’s every bit as fast as a hydraulic method and it isn’t near as expensive to build or maintain.  All I need is a compressed air source and an impact wrench and the process goes fast.

Often I get the question about how to hold the small stuff like  plastic bottle caps, medicine bottles, single serving yogurt containers, etc. in the blocks.  I put them in plastic bags and then put the plastic bag into the press.  Here’s a good example of how it works.  I have a large plastic dog food bag.  I also have large pieces of styrofoam that was used in packaging flat screen television sets.  I broke down the styrofoam into pieces about eight to ten inches long.  They were still fat and wide, just not real long.  I put those into the plastic dog food bag.  I put that into the press.  I jumped up and down on the bag to get it to fit into the press.  Then I compressed it along with some bottles and other stuff.  I had a half block.

I like the idea that it takes imagination and skill to properly load the press to make good blocks.  That means some people are going to be better at doing that than others will.  The job of loading the plastic into the press will be a source of growth and pride for those that are good at it.  That’s a very good thing.  I’m not one of those people and I’m okay with that.  Those that find the job of loading the plastic rewarding would probably not like at all doing what makes me happy when it comes to working.

As I said a little earlier, the more I work with this the more I like it.  I’m working on a method for placing the blocks that I believe will not only make the recycled plastic block a good way to build houses, it will make the recycled plastic building block a great way to build houses.