From Sustainable Surfboards to Smarter Housing Solutions

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Farhana Asnap / World Bank
A man scours through trash in Jakarta, Indonesia. Nevhouse recycles plastics from streets and landfills into building panels for sustainable houses.

Nev Hyman is famous in the surfing world for founding Firewire, one of the world’s largest and most successful manufacturers of surfboards. What’s lesser known is the company’s core principal of sustainability.

This mission toward sustainability brought Hyman from surfboards to housing with his new initiative, Nevhouse. The driving solution behind the initiative is two-fold, addressing both waste surplus and suitable housing shortages in developing countries.

Nevhouse collects plastics from streets and landfills in local regions, which are then recycled into a composite plastic compound and reshaped into panels suitable for building. These panels are flat packed for easy transportation and assembled into prefabricated home building kits. The kits are assembled onsite, requiring only basic tools for construction. The resulting homes are designed to be low-maintenance, waterproof, fire and earthquake resistant, and easy to clean.

The company is the first to supply prefabricated homes from composite recycled compounds. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Hyman described a Nevhouse home as “a house that’ll last 100 years, that’s impervious to bacteria, free of maintenance, and to a degree [can] withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. So from this perspective they are important tools for disaster relief and can be built and taken down in just two days.”

Operations are currently in place in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, with headquarters in Singapore. Partnerships with governments and NGOs help to deliver the low-cost homes primarily to families living in slums, working in remote areas, and those who have lost their homes to natural disasters. Hyman hopes to expand the company to have plants built in 100 countries worldwide, to “respond to the changing nature of demand for plastics on a global scale” as tons of waste continues to accumulate in developing countries.

If his housing solution is half as successful as his surfboard empire, Hyman’s Nevhouse holds great promise as a social enterprise.