Bamboo (Tacuara) Loofah Panels

Exhibition: Cities | October 5, 2011 by

Scrap metals, wood, and other found materials are often used to make dwellings in informal settlements, resulting in homes that are unsafe and precarious, with little thermal insulation. In Paraguay, Elsa María Zaldívar Rolón develops local, affordable, and replicable building materials made from loofah, a locally grown vegetable known widely for its use as an exfoliating sponge. Zaldívar, who began her enterprise as a means to increase the earning capacity of local women, initially combined the loofah with recycled plastic to form building panels in a specially engineered machine. But when plastic doubled in price and required sealing treatments to reduce humidity stains that appeared over time, the cost became prohibitive.

Her latest loofah panels depend less on technology, as the current process is more closely aligned with traditional wattle-and-daub construction than machine-milling. The raw materials include crushed loofah, cassava starch waste, sand, water, and castor oil, which are mixed together and applied to a bamboo panel. Baba de tuna, a gelled material created from soaking tuna in water for three days, is used to create a waterproof bond on the outside of homes. The building panels, fabricated locally by community members, provide better thermal insulation and acoustic quality than materials typically used in informal dwellings, and the raw materials are incredibly low-cost, ranging from US$0.50 to $1 per square meter (10.75 square feet). The solution is environmentally sustainable and the technology is easily replicable in other areas using local materials.

Designer: Elsa María Zaldívar Rolón, Base ECTA. Villa Clara community, Coronel Oviedo, Paraguay, 2008–present (prototype). Bamboo, crushed loofah, cassava starch waste, sand, water, castor oil, baba de tuna

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1 response to Bamboo (Tacuara) Loofah Panels

  1. It’s amazing. I never imagined that we can build a house made from these materials.

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