A Self-Taught Bolivian Designer Uses Old Bottles to Build Houses for People Who Can’t Afford Them

3 years ago

Humanity today faces a lot of crucial problems: war, poverty, hunger, and pollution, just to name a few. It may seem that these problems are unsolvable, but we have to start somewhere. Just look around and you’ll see people who stand up and fight those problems in their own communities however way they can. Ingrid Vaca Diez, a professional lawyer from Bolivia who became a self-taught architect and helped hundreds of families get the houses of their dreams, is one of those brave and devoted people.

Here at Bright Side, we’ve learned more about this remarkable woman and her story and we can’t wait to share it with you.

It all started with a stack of empty bottles in Ingrid’s backyard.

Ingrid Vaca Diez, a lawyer from Bolivia, never planned to become an architect, but she’d always been aware of the ecological crisis our planet suffers from. When Ingrid’s husband saw all those empty bottles she had gathered on the patio of their Santa Cruz residence, he said she probably had enough bottles to build a house! The idea hit Ingrid then and there: why not use waste that would otherwise litter the landscape to build affordable houses for families in need?

It turned out that for many low-income families, a cheap bottle house is just what it would take to become happy.

According to UNICEF, more than half the people in the country live in conditions of poverty, often having no opportunity to satisfy their basic needs including accommodations. Ingrid realized how serious the problem really was when she asked children from a local school she visited to write a letter about what they wanted for Christmas.

One of the students wrote that all she wanted for Christmas was getting more room for her family as they were living in a tiny house made of rubber and cartons that was constantly leaking. This and other stories of people in need inspired Ingrid to start an amazing project — building bottle houses for those who need a home.

The construction technology behind a bottle house is very simple but time-consuming.

The main thing needed to build a house is construction material. Bricks are not cheap and unfortunately, many people cannot afford them. But if you use old bottles which are found in abundance in every city, your dream of a cozy home can come true. All you need to do is collect a large amount of empty plastic or glass bottles, fill them with dirt or sand and use them the way you would normally use bricks when building a home.

With no prior experience in architecture, Ingrid has taken part in building more than 300 houses and recycling millions of plastic bottles.

So, how many bottles do you really need to build a house? For a house of 1,830 square feet, it takes about 36,000 empty plastic bottles. So far, Ingrid has helped to build more than 300 houses which means she has made thousands of people happier and helped to recycle millions of bottles. Of course, she wouldn’t be able to build so many houses alone, so what the self-taught architect does is teach people how to do it, and supervises the construction process in all the stages.

What started as Ingrid’s husband’s joke, turned into the project of her life. This story proves that there’s nothing impossible and that the problems we find hard to cope with can sometimes have cheap and easy solutions. She had no building experience and no funds, but she knew people needed her help, and soon her courage and determination inspired others to go out and change their lives.

What do you think of Ingrid’s social project? Do you think using waste as construction material can become more frequent in the future? Tell us in the comments!

Preview photo credit Ingrid Vaca Diez / Facebook


I like the idea! Though, this solution can only be useful in warm countries :)
What do you guys think?

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