The word Plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos meaning capable of being shaped or moulded. They comprise of wide range of semi-synthetic or fully synthetic organic compounds that are malleable, durable and cheap. In the case of developed economies, one-third of plastic is used in packaging and also in buildings such as plumbing or vinyl siding or in plumbing. Plastics have evolved from using natural plastic materials such as chewing gum to chemically modified raw materials such as natural rubber, collagen, galalite, nitrocellulose. It is then finally transformed into fully synthetic molecules such as synthetic molecules bakelite, epoxy, polyvinyl chloride, etc. In the Middle Ages, cattle horns were used as windows for lanterns, while expanded polystyrene was used for buildings isolation which Dow Chemical invented in 1954. As times are changing uses of plastics are being modified keeping in mind the properties, advantages, disadvantages and uses.
PROPERTIES THAT ENHANCE ITS SUITABILITY
Properties that make plastic suitable to be used for building a home are –
- The main property that makes plastic suitable to be used in construction is its lightweight property yet strong which makes it easier for transportation, loading-unloading, etc.
- It is also corrosion resistant as it has strong weather fighting ability which leads to less maintenance in case of buildings.PPS (Polyphenylene Sulphide) is a chemical and corrosion-resistant plastic polymer typically utilised in applications involving high-temperature exposure to corrosive chemicals.
- The flow of any liquid substance to other materials through it. In simple words, it is impermeable because of its structure. The formation makes them polymeric chains. Such a structure provides the quality of water repellency which makes building leak proof.
- It is resistant to fire as it has added antimony trioxide together with a brominated compound to polyethylene during processing. Antimony trioxide acts synergistically with brominated compounds to intensify fire-retardant properties by the slowdown of the combustion process. So additional fireproofing in not required in buildings.
- Plastics are flexible as they have anti-vibration properties, making them suitable to undergo large deflections as in earthquakes without causing deformation. The seismic performance of the building is improved through this.
ADVANTAGES OF USING PLASTIC
DISADVANTAGES OF USING PLASTIC
- Majority of the world’s pollution found in the oceans are mainly due to plastic which is killing animals of all kind since they are consuming plastic or getting trapped in them.
- Although plastics are cheaper to be found, it impacts lives of people which in turn is costlier.
- Plastics tend to soften at elevated temperatures. This restricts its use in main structural elements and also in hot water systems.
- Cold climates can cause the plastic to become brittle and fracture under pressure. So, it is advisable not to be used in cold climatic conditions.
- Plastics are difficult for recycling, and there rises concern over their decomposing as many plastics take millions of years to decompose.
- Plastics have a low modulus of elasticity, making them unsuitable for load-bearing applications like beams and columns.
- Although the fireproof property exists in plastic, many varieties of plastics have high thermal expansion rates, which requires more detail in design to allowadequate thermal movement.
USES OF PLASTICS
Coming on the purpose, plastics have innumerable uses. Some of them are –
Fig 3: Plastic Laminate resembling wood
FUTURE SCOPE OF USING PLASTIC
Constructing homes using plastic is nowadays becoming a trend. For this, different admixtures are used, which in turn increases strength. Recycled plastic bricks are coming into use which has many advantages like –
- Low environmental impact.
- Reduced energy consumption
- Thinner and lighter than conventional bricks
- Low-cost modular housing
- Building structurally sound to withstand an earthquake
- Excellent insulation properties (about five times more than conventional bricks)
- noise insulation
Miniwiz Sustainable Energy Ltd. has already constructed several structures, including factories, IMAX theatres, entertainment campus, and exhibition areas in Taiwan, Malaysia, and China. One of their recent addition is the Eco Ark Pavilion in Taipei. The walls of this structure are entirely formed of Polli-bricks, which are plastic bottles that slot together like Lego parts. Much of their raw material comes from recycled water bottles. Similarly, other companies are using plastic using innovative ways like Byfusion, Conceptos plasticos and many more.
Plastic is undoubtedly the most revolutionary product in history ever. It provides us with more advantages compared to disadvantages. Its uses in a building are evolving with changing times, and in future, some unexpected benefits in buildings can be thought of like its use in load-bearing, more uses in climatic conditions, etc. China produced the most significant quantity of plastic, at nearly 60 million tonnes. The United States followed this at 38 million, Germany at 14.5 million and Brazil at 12 million tonnes. These developed countries are taking plastic to the next level. Hence, in the future, people can think about a safe environment with plastic.
- Slideshare, “Building Materials as a Plastic”- https://www.slideshare.net/abhishekmewada54/building-materials-as-a-plastic
- Institution of Civil Engineers, “Plastic in construction” – https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Plastic_in_construction>
- Green Garage, “17 Biggest Advantages and Disadvantages of Plastics” – https://greengarageblog.org/17-biggest-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-plastics
- EcoFrenzy, “Building the future with recycled plastic bricks” – https://ecofrenzy.com/building-the-future-with-recycled-plastic-bricks/
- Our World in Data, “Plastic Pollution” – https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution
- Wikipedia, “Plastic” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic#History
Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.
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