Date of Submission

Spring 5-7-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Architecture



Committee Chair/First Advisor

Zamila Karimi


Initially celebrated as a miracle material, modern society’s dependence on plastics has resulted in urgent environmental challenges. The consequences of this dependence are: widespread plastic pollution, an environment grappling with near-indestructible waste, and a health crisis fueled by malignant microplastics. In response to this urgent junction of environmental challenges, this research sets forth to further the transformative approach explored by Janel Sitt’s 2020 thesis and aims to answer the following questions:

1. Why does our dependence on single-use plastic jeopardize our environment, severely impacting food supplies, marine life, and overall quality of life?

2. As designers, are there opportunities for architects to mitigate these issues by recycling mismanaged plastic waste into a circular economy that results in a viable alternative building module?

3. How can these building materials become opportunities for community engagement to promote sustainable practices?

The focal point of the investigation is the conception of a small-scale building module crafted from recycled plastic, with the intent to serve as a performative facade, a pop-up pavilion, and a cladding material. This innovative construction serves as a tangible remedy to combat plastic pollution and, critically, assumes the role of an educational instrument. Its purpose extends beyond a facadal functionality; it aspires to enlighten the public on the viability of sustainable construction materials.

The proposed building module takes the form of:

1. Pop-up pavilions deployed for educational outreach,

2. Performative skins on existing structures with iconic imagery, and

3. Cladding materials for urban facades.

The research builds upon case studies exploring low-cost, eco-friendly materials, digital technology for optimization, and the influence of sensory systems on spatial perceptions. Using modulated recycled plastics as a building material aligns with William McDonough’s “Cradle to Cradle” philosophy, reframing design as a regenerative force, and can begin to take form by establishing a community recycling center for research and education. This center will be the first host to display these modules as a facade to the building and offer an opportunity for the public to get their hands on the recycling and crafting process of these modules, while also serving as the base for the deployment of educational pop-up pavilions

constructed of these modules. This approach offers a unique opportunity for architects to promote sustainable design practices, by supplying a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional construction materials that can help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry by incorporating William McDonough’s philosophy. I quote ”Cradle to Cradle reframes design as a positive, regenerative force - one that creates footprints to delight in.”