The Evolving Symmetry 1.0 design concept is an extensible architectural system for communities to begin to utilize post-consumer plastic as a resource for socially beneficial architecture, such as: bus stops, community garden sheds, cabins, small houses, community centers, or even entire communities.
When one learns to build the basic component of the Evolving Symmetry 1.0, the bus stop, every incarnation of the entire system is possible. Twenty-five people saving their clean, dry post-consumer plastic, can build one bus stop per year. Fifty people can build one community garden shed a year. One hundred people can build a single occupant small house each year. Four hundred people can build a family-sized medium house every year.
The Bus Stop Prototype represents six years of collection of post-consumer, mainly non-recyclable mixed plastic for a family of four. Over four hundred pounds of plastic which would have normally gone to the landfill was saved during the six years. The largest item saved was a queen size inflatable mattress, and the smallest recognizable item was the small plastic hangtags on garments. The average amount of time spent daily collecting, cleaning, drying, and bottling-up plastic was three minutes per person, per day.
The benefits of saving plastic are many. When plastic is removed from the waste stream, the majority of what waste remains is compostable. Zero waste goals become more achievable. Increased awareness of plastic as a resource helps protect natural areas, reduce pollution, and increase quality of life.
In Montpelier, Vermont, the waiting list for low-income subsidized housing is four years. Imagine the economic benefits of securing shelter for individuals who need it most. Chronically homeless people spend night after night in shelters, emergency rooms, and jails. The cost to communities is high, averaging $30,000- $50,000 per person, per year, according to the Interagency Council on Homelessness.
When chronically homeless people are given housing, the savings to the community can be significant, from around $16,000 to upwards of $18,000 per person each year. When housing is provided first, fiscal resources are freed to be utilized more effectively by communities.
The lifespan of plastic is long, some say infinite. How do we find an end-use for an infinite substance?
Ideally, architecture lasts a very long time, the longer - the better. By utilizing plastic for architecture, we are securing plastic into a beneficial use more in line with plastics' lifecycle, so the beneficial impacts can be potentially infinite.
Note: Shannon Lee Gilmour’s design concept Evolving Symmetry 1.0 is a creative development inspired by the plastic-filled bottle-building of Susana Heisse of the Pura-Vida Atitlan Organization, the earth-filled bottle-building of Andreas Froese of Eco-tec Soluciones Ambientales, and the Pinwheel House design of 2011 MIT student architect, Ying chee Chui.