June 30th, 2015

In Brief: Sustainable News

From cardboard shelters to homemade flats, and cities and chemicals banned from PVC flooring. Discover our selection of fresh and sustainable news.

Shigeru Ban Cardboard Tube Shelters for Nepal

Pritzker Prize winner and Tokyoite paper-tube architect Shigeru Ban said he will participate in the reconstruction in Nepal, after the earthquake killed more than 8,500 people, and left hundreds of thousands people without a home.

The Japanese architect, famous for building with recycled cardboard tubes, is also known for post-disaster actions in many countries including Rwanda, Japan, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Haiti and New Zealand. His past relief efforts consisted of designing effective low-cost shelters out of local, cheap materials such as cardboard, wood, metal and plastic. One of his major reconstruction projects is the Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand, re-made of cardboard after the 2011 earthquake.

His action in Nepal will take the same turn. Ban plans to team up with local volunteers and builders to create easily assembled transitional homes out of paper tubes for the survivors. On the long run, he intends to construct permanent buildings with future resilience.

But according to him, houses made of cardboard tubes can also become permanent. The cardboard Cathedral has been open for two years now.

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Marco Casagrande’s Homemade Cities

Among the five architects rewarded by the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture was Finnish architect Marco Casagrande for his biourban acupuncture concept that is aimed at reintegrating nature and the people in the city.

Paracity is one of Casagrande’s projects that initiates sustainable transformation processes in the urban environment, enabling people to build their own flats and even cities. Paracity consists of 6-cubic-meter modules made of cross-laminated wood that can be assembled by the inhabitants.

A pilot project is currently under progress in Taipei, Taiwan. Paracity indeed offers a quick solution for reconstruction in areas that are exposed to natural disasters such as tsunami, flooding and earthquake.

Marco Casagrande

Home Depot Plans to Ban Phthalates From Its PVC Flooring

Home Depot PVC Flooring
Courtesy of Home Depot

American home improvement chain Home Depot has announced it will stop selling vinyl flooring that contains phthalate plasticizers by the end of 2015.

Phthalates are chemical substances mostly added to plastics to improve their flexibility and durability. They can be found in vinyl products such as PVC flooring in quantity that can reach up to 20%.

But according to the Healthy Building Network, phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Being semi-volatile components, they move from flooring to dust where they are inhalated by occupants around and can result in asthma, genital deformities and in the fragilization of the immune system.

Banned in 2008 in the United States in products for children, phthalates are still widely used in PVC building products. With its announcement, Home Depot could act as a role model for the whole industry. Lowe’s, another major home improvement chain, has also said it will remove phthalates from its products.

According to Mind the Store, an effort against chemicals and supported by Healthy Building Network, at least 100 other hazardous chemicals can still be found in products sold by American retailers.

Camille Rustici

By Camille Rustici

Camille Rustici is journalist for ArchiExpo e-magazine. For several years, she has covered many sustainable issues for various media and magazines including TV Channel France 24 and American news agency Associated Press.

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