Whater Project – Inspiration stories

by Santiago Fernández

“Humanity went through Stone Age, went through Ice Age, and today is going through Plastic Age. We need to find solutions” says Robert Bezeau, a Canadian living in Panama for almost ten years now.

He found it sleeping: “I woke up from a dream, I was in a village where everything was built from bottles and I said ´That´s what I gotta do´ I´m going to build houses using the bottles”.

Robert had been visiting the Panama since 1991 when he volunteered to help after the terrible earthquake that hit the country. He fell in love with the place and daydreamed of living there until he retired and achieved his dream in 2009.

He chose the beautiful island of Bocas del Toro. Soon after arriving, during his morning walks by the beach, he was shocked by the amount of trash left lying around he found. Massive tourism, low environmental awareness and a lack of local infrastructure proved too big for the authorities to handle properly. Robert decided to act and started, helped by other volunteers, to pick up the plastic trash. After working for one year and a half they had collected almost one million units.

By that time he had his revelation dream and started to develop his Plastic Village Project. His solution was simple: eliminate the bottle, by using the bottle. To achieve that, he created a construction system based on cages full of bottles that are attached together to make buildings. Along with the recycling benefits, plastic bottle homes also prove to be cooler than regular constructions since the air inside the bottles is a great insulator. And the panels built using steel bars and then welded into cages provides the construction a mix of flexibility and rigidity that makes the houses earthquake resistant.

The project is nested into 83 acres of established jungle, with partial ocean view for some of the lots. The project was conceived in three phases. The first one started in 2015 with the building of the first home of the community and will last until the thirty seven available lots are occupied. Over the three phases of development, the village will have around 120 houses, a small boutique, community garden and small parks for barbecues and gatherings. The community offers three home models, designed by Robert and his team, along with the collaboration of top architecture firms from Panama. Nevertheless, custom design homes are also accepted.

On July 2016 Robert started to build one the most iconic building of the community: the castle. Finished last April, more than 40,000 plastic PET bottles were used during the construction. It has four levels, measuring 50 feet high. The castle hosts a restaurant and four guest rooms available to spend the night. It was an original way Robert found to spread his ideas and raise funds to finance them. 

“Here you see me dressed as a king. I am the Plastic King. If kids can believe that Santa Claus exists they can also believe in the Plastic King. If the Plastic King tells them that it´s no good to do something they will probably listen, more than to their mothers. So, starting in March, when the schools are back, we want to bring a class, every week, where I´ll dress as the Plastic King and educate and hopefully inspire the kids” said Robert to the BBC a few months ago.

You can watch a short documentary of the project here.

For further information please visit here.