This project aims to integrate the local waste recycling economy and the informal housing industry into a decentralised circular economy system. For this purpose, Rushabh Chheda and his team at Conscious Designs have designed a set of building elements using plastic and glass waste, which can be produced locally through injection moulding. By making housing construction simpler, faster and more sustainable, these simple, stackable building blocks help empower communities to build their own homes.
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?
IMPACT & DEVELOPMENT
This project saves approx. 3 kilos of CO2 emissions for every kilo of reused plastic, compared to incinerating.
Since the Challenge programme began, they have formed lasting partnerships with Rotterdam businesses and organisations in Ghana.
This project won over 250,000 EUR to undertake a feasibility study.
They participated in the World Startup incubator programme.