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Tapping into Urban Recycling for Housing Alternatives: Developing a Building System with Waste Corrugated Cardboard and Tooling

The purpose of this research is to investigate how to devise a building system to enhance or support the housing needs of low-income communities in developing countries. This research, supported in architectural materials and processes experimentation, is specifically focused on alternative construction materials made of waste corrugated cardboard that can be routinely collected from urban waste systems. The research begins with a comprehensive review of existing scholarship that details the full variety of environmental advantages of cardboard as a building material, the socio-economic implications of cardboard as an unconventional but low-cost material, and cardboard’s technical capacity to support building requirements. The main focus of the research is exploring new methods and tools for transforming waste corrugated cardboard into building components, and assessing how they can generate a building system governed by low-cost, reusability, ease of construction, safety, and durability. Thus far this research has yielded a set of prototype tools and a series of prototypical housing parts that employ waste corrugated cardboard collected from the Penn State University waste stream. Additionally, the research includes the exploration of computational design tools for optimizing the use of the cardboard elements within the building system and test affordable/no cost digital fabrication processes for joining cardboard elements. Finally, the researcher plans to develop a case study in Paraguay to analyze the potential implementation of the system.

Project type: 
Dissertation / Thesis
Project duration: 
August, 2016 to August, 2020
Team: 

PhD candidate: Julio Diarte

Dissertation committee: Jose Duarte (Adviser), Marcus Shaffer (Co-Adviser), Esther Obonyo, Loukas Kalisperis, Benay Gursoy