Winner Clean Energy Challenge
Track: Startup


With this project, we aim to integrate the local waste recycling economy and the informal housing industry into a decentralized circular economy system. For this purpose, we have designed a set of building elements using plastic and glass waste, which can be produced locally through injection molding. By making housing construction simpler, faster and more sustainable, these simple, stackable building blocks help empower communities to build their own homes.

Read more on this project on the Clean Energy Challenge Platform

What’s your story?

I am Rushabh Chheda, an architect and the founder of ‘Conscious Designs’. In 2014, after completing my Bachelor studies in Mumbai, I worked at an architectural firm for over a year. I started my Masters after that at TU Delft in August 2016. During my studies, I chose to study innovation and sustainability-driven projects. After finishing my studies, I continued working on my graduation project and went on to set up my own company in Rotterdam. The focus of the company is to create architectural designs and products for the circular economy while finding new methods of using waste as a resource in order to reduce the use of virgin materials with high embedded energy.

In November 2018, I had the opportunity to exhibit the project at the Highlight Festival, in Delft. During this period, I got in touch with Frans Taminiau, a product designer and a social entrepreneur from Rotterdam, who helped me make the first brick prototype. After multiple engaging discussions regarding the project, he offered to come on board as the co-founder of the company, as he strongly believed in the idea and wanted to be a part of the company. Now, supported by his expertise, we are working on our business strategy while finding the right team of designers, material experts and investors in order to take the project ahead.

The focus of the company is to create architectural designs and products for the circular economy while finding new methods of using waste as a resource.

How did your project come about?

The idea originated during my graduation year at TU Delft, in the studio of Architectural Engineering, which has the ambition of combining technology with design thinking in order to create sustainable architecture. The studio provided the opportunity of using Indonesia as a project location, which I thought would be a good topic for me to explore, as the context faced similar issues as India (which is where I am from). Under the guidance of my mentors, Ir. Mo Smit (Design Tutor), Dr. David Peck (Research Tutor) and Ir. Engbert Van Der Zaag (Building Technology Tutor), I explored the topic in detail. Over the course of the project, I got in touch with the Science Center at the University, who provided me with the necessary resources, like access to their fantastic facility and the use of their machines for prototyping the designs.

The first competition that I had the chance of participating in with my project, was the ‘Change Maker Challenge 2018’ by the Dopper Foundation, where I managed to reach the top 10 Finalists, winning some research funding. After this, I participated in a competition by Yes!Delft, for developing a business model for the project. In November, after having registered our company, Frans and I found out about the WDCD challenge online. After having read in more detail the information regarding the competition, we thought that this would be an ideal opportunity for our idea and also the right partner to have if we won, so we went ahead to participate in it.

 The team of Circular Communities for Housing

In your opinion, why is creativity important in climate action and the transition to clean energy?

Urban areas around the world are currently facing enormous challenges and changes compared to 20 years ago. We, as a society, tend to assume that architects and designers will be the ones to help us solve these big systemic challenges, like affordable housing, sustainable cities and social inequality. However, architects happen to work directly only for the richest of the population.
We have never needed design thinking more than we do now. So as designers we need to ask ourselves, how are we going to contribute our services in a rapidly changing world? How can we reach out to the masses and design a sustainable future?

Where do you see your project one year from now?

For the coming year, we are working on setting up our production facility and a research lab to find new ways to reduce waste and to use our resources more efficiently. We are working on our first customer order for DUWO, a student housing company, for whom we will be producing a series of interlocking urban furniture using 150 bricks, recycling around 300 kilos of plastic waste! We are also working on creating a pilot demo house on the TU Delft Campus by then end of 2019 and expanding our client portfolio.

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