Students Reuse Industrial Waste in Construction to Provide Practical Housing Models


According to the World Bank, with rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase to 3.4 billion tons in 2050.

In collaboration with a leading multinational corporation and industrial partner, construction engineering undergraduate Rana Youssef, Khaled Ali, Lobna Magdy and Karim Ali, under the supervision of construction engineering Professor Mohamed Nagib Abou-Zeid, decided to introduce an alternative solution to reuse and recycle industrial waste materials and non-eco-friendly materials and turn them into construction applications. This could contribute to providing simple and practical models for small housing within informal settlements that lack adequate housing.

“The impact of such projects is threefold,” explained Abou-Zeid. “Besides helping in finding safe and adequate means to handle industrial waste materials instead of burning or dumping them in a landfill, it will also help us find potential uses for concrete incorporating waste, such as superior thermal and sound insulation.”

Besides contributing to diminishing the waste, this project also applies AUC’s primary strategic pillar of high-quality education. Students are engaged in a hands-on, experiential industry-based problem situation. “Throughout the last decades, the magnitude of solid waste has been expanding worldwide," said Rana Youssef, construction engineering student. "The abundance and buildup of such hazardous and non-eco-friendly materials have created a worldwide dilemma. We expect that the results we came up with will make an evolution in the construction industry and will open doors for using other waste materials in the construction industry.”

 “The huge amount of waste generated by faulty diapers, composed in part of polypropylene and polyethylene plastics, harms the environment on both a physical and human level,” said Amani Elshimi, director of undergraduate research at the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies and senior instructor II at the Department of Rhetoric and Composition. “Working as a group, the students had to apply construction engineering principles, employ critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills, work through challenging group dynamics, produce and test a creative prototype, and address a high-stakes global issue.”

Further investigations are now being made to test the properties of this solution in hard concrete applications and test its ability in thermal and sound insulation through building a prototype room at AUC.

“For the future phase of such project, we are planning to include other waste types into construction, which can, in turn, minimize the heavy consumption of natural resources,” explained Abou-Zeid.  “We are considering taking the project one step further and implementing it into a pilot to assess all economic and practical aspects of production."