Spokane Journal of Business

Architects, entrepreneurs develop 'upcycled' roofing

Group's new system uses recycled plastic bottles to make shelter shingles

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Student and faculty entrepreneurs from the New York Institute of Technology plan to give new life to old water bottles with what they say is an environmentally friendly roofing design for developing nations or for emergency shelters in disaster-stricken areas around the world.

The team has devised a plan for Home2O, a business to distribute an aid package consisting of water bottles delivered on specially designed plastic shipping pallets. At the center of the idea is a technology known as SodaBIB or soda bottle interface bracket system, invented at NYIT and awarded a provisional patent last year.

The SodaBIB technology enables crushed plastic water bottles to serve as shingles when they are nested and screwed into the pallets. The durable pallets are assembled as roofing sections for shelters, the design team says. The concept is an example of upcycling, which transforms garbage into a useful product.

"This is one way architecture can do something good for the environment," says Jason Van Nest, an assistant professor at NYIT'sSchool of Architecture and Designand one of four faculty advisers on the team. "We're making plastic, a material that's detrimental to the environment, somehow sustainable. If this can raise the bar and contribute to an expectation that consumer goods are supposed to have at least two lifecycles, we'd have quite a victory on our hands."

A two-member interdisciplinary team of NYIT undergraduate students presented the idea last month at the finals of a New York state business plan competition in Albany, and took home $1,000 and a "People's Choice" award.

"It took a lot of research and development on both the technology and business sides," says William Yu, 21, an architecture major, describing the hours of meetings to prepare for the regional competition held earlier last month at NYITAuditorium on Broadway. "We had to put in the time and effort, and we knew our concept inside and out."

Competing against MBA and Ph.D. students, Yu and teammate Dhruv Patel, 19, a business management major, presented the plan and were grilled by judges acting as angel investors. They won first place in the energy/sustainability category, a victory that gave them the right to move on to the finals.

The Home2O business plan promotes an aid package that relief organizations can distribute to areas hit by disaster. The package consists of 1,728 water bottles delivered on plastic pallets, redesigned using the SodaBIB technology. Once the bottles are empty, they are combined for the roofing systems with the pallets. Van Nest and some professors have worked with students on the concept since 2011.

In a student-led architecture and design/build exercises, students tested roof designs with sophisticated computer software, researched roofing issues, and built models to demonstrate the project's feasibility. They later determined that the idea would be most feasible if the pallet manufacturers would incorporate the SodaBIB technology to replace single-use wood or plastic pallets.

"By having team members from very different majors, we have a much wider scope of view and consideration that touches all aspects of our presentation," Yu said. "When we are so focused on our majors, we tend to start thinking in a vacuum and get a sort of tunnel vision."

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