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Cost-effective and eco-friendly construction material to provide cheaper housing in Egypt

Progress stage
Jun 2024 to Dec 2025
  • Egypt
  • Infrastructure
  • Jun 2024 to Dec 2025

The American University in Cairo (AUC) seeks to create durable construction panels by combining recycled plastic and wood, aiming to provide cost-effective and sustainable housing solutions for millions in Egypt. During the preparation phase, the team is assessing the viability of the solution for a mass-production level.

Project deployed by:

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The global construction sector is facing challenges due to rising material costs and its negative impact on the environment, contributing to 33% of greenhouse gas emissions and consuming 40% of total energy usage (Allouhi et al., 2015). By 2030, over 3 billion people worldwide will require better housing (UN Habitat, 2023), which poses a challenge to make housing more accessible while reducing costs and environmental harm.

In Egypt, the construction sector is strained as it grapples with meeting the demand for housing while dealing with increased costs for materials such as cement, steel, and masonry. Importing materials is getting increasingly expensive as the country’s inflation rates are skyrocketing, Egyptian pound being among the worst performing currencies in 2023 (CNBC, 2023).

Since over 55 million people, especially in rural areas, would be in need of improved housing (Hassanein & Kahalil, 2006 ; Trading Economics, 2018), the government is urging local researchers to develop local, eco-friendly and affordable construction materials.


The Department of Construction and Engineering of the American University in Cairo (AUC) aims to produce at scale durable panels suitable for construction by combining Wood Plastic Composites (WPCs), made from recycled wood and plastic waste, together with local wood called Causarina Glauca. Casuarina Glauca grows abundantly using agricultural and sewage wastewater, reducing environmental impact and costs compared to imported wood. Additionally, research confirms its exceptional mechanical properties, surpassing oak woods in bending strength.

Compared to reinforced concrete, Casuarina Glauca costs approximately 25% less, including material, equipment and workmanship, while also potentially saving 87% of energy (Youssef et al., 2019).

Through their previous experiments, the AUC team knows that both WPC and Causarina Glauca are structurally sound, cost-effective and eco-friendly (Youssef et al., 2019 ; Hussein et al. 2019). However, using these two materials together will require additional experiments to know

  • How they should be connected to create cross-laminated timber slabs.
  • How they behave structurally when used in larger dimensions.

Expected results

At a larger scale, the project aims to positively impact over 5 million people in Egypt, focusing on providing building materials for rural schools and social housing. The innovative material developed by AUC has the potential to lower housing expenses and offer more environmentally friendly and weather-resistant homes not only in Egypt but beyond.

With the support of the FID grant, the team is assessing to which extent the panels made from WPC and Casuarina Glauca are durable, sustainable, and cost-efficient, particularly when produced in large quantities. The project activities include:

  • Creating cross-laminated timber (CLT) sections
  • Establishing a precise manufacturing method
  • Constructing full-scale prototypes
  • Conducting rigorous testing to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of the prototypes.

Photo credit : ©Ahmed Ezzat

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American University in Cairo

American University in Cairo

The American University in Cairo is a private research university in New Cairo, Egypt.


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