In a country with a shortage of homes and a world-leading coffee production, a small construction company has found, quite brilliantly, a way to leverage one to fix the other.
Coffee husks, a paper-like material that surrounds precious beans, are becoming strong, lightweight, and versatile building materials that can panel a home for as little as $ 4,500.
The one based in Bogotá Woodpecker, which tried to develop a material from rice fiber, palm leaves, sawdust and even recycled plastic, finally opted for the coffee husk for its availability, resistance to fire and waterproofing against insects. Another benefit? The use of coffee husks would prevent them from ending up in landfills where the country’s methane emissions would increase.
“We saw that there was a great need for a lightweight construction system for homes and classrooms in rural and isolated locations where traditional building systems cannot work, such as bricks, cement and concrete,” said CEO Alejandro Franco.
Pre-made “house kits” have to be able to be loaded and transported in small boats, helicopters or even on the back of a donkey, and for the most part they can.
Each kit consists of lightweight steel frames that, like LEGO, can be attached with minimal use of tools and coffee shell boards that can be attached to the steel frames without the need for nails or screws.
Woodpecker has been at this game for 10 years and recently built his 2,500th home.
When Category 5 Hurricane Iota struck the Colombian island of Providence in November, destroying more than a thousand homes, the company donated two complete houses that the military received and assembled, which as Franco told Adele Peters in Fast company, it was a true blessing for a community.
“The system worked perfectly considering there was no power supply, the ground was muddy, the airport was damaged, there was no food, etc., all the problems you can imagine,” he said. “We believe that our houses are an excellent solution to the housing crisis there.”
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