This Columbian company is combining recycled plastic with discarded coffee husks to create materials for sustainable homes. This supports accessible, lightweight, prefabricated housing while simultaneously reducing food waste-based methane emissions.
Woodpecker, a Bogota-based company, produces lightweight, sustainable prefab buildings for easy transportation and construction anywhere, by anyone, as homes or classrooms.
The separate, standardized parts — coffee husk and plastic-based boards combined with a steel frame — clip together on location like Lego pieces with minimal construction knowledge and tools required.
Creating affordable housing
Woodpecker has been producing sustainable homes and other buildings for over 10 years now, and thanks to both large-scale production methods and the low cost of the materials themselves, its houses are available for as little as $4,500 per-prefab.
“We saw that there was a huge necessity for a lightweight construction system for housing and classrooms in rural and isolated places where traditional construction systems cannot go—like bricks, cement, and concrete,” Woodpecker CEO Alejandro Franco told Fast Company.
In response to the extensive damage of hurricane Iota last year, the Columbian government used Woodpecker’s designs to house those displaced by the disaster.
Despite the lack of energy supply, damaged infrastructure, and difficult building conditions, the company’s lightweight construction system provided a fast and practical solution for those on the ground.
Why use coffee husks to build sustainable homes?
Woodpecker settled upon the material after trialing several different natural fibers — including sawdust, rice, palm, and grass — with different varieties of recycled plastic. Coffee husk is fireproof, extremely durable, and even resistant to insects.
“Coffee husk was selected because it’s stronger and drier than the other fibers,” explained Franco. Columbia is also the third-largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil and Vietnam, according to Statista, which means that coffee husk is available nationwide.
In addition to building materials, studies indicate that coffee husks show great potential for biogas generation. Coffee husk can also be composted or used for animal bedding, and car manufacturer Ford has even incorporated the waste product into its plans for sustainable car seat covers.