UN Habitat partners with Norwegian startup

Plans to build million of homes using 100% recycled plastic

5. oktober 2020


What if we use one of our most pressing problems - the world’s plastic pollution, to solve another one - the shortage of quality affordable housing? 

In connection with the World Habitat Day 2020, on October 5 & 6,  UN Habitat launches its partnership with the Norwegian startup Othalo. Othalo has developed a patented technology that makes it possible to produce building elements from 100% recycled plastic. 

The possibilities for using the technology are many and Othalo's initial focus will be on affordable houses. Nearly one billion people live in slums today, and in Sub Saharan Africa alone, the immediate need for low-cost housing is 160million units and is expected to increase to 360M by 2050 as a result of rapid urbanization. The UN, the World Bank, nation states and a number of other actors have the housing crisis high on their agenda. The challenge is that traditional construction methods are neither efficient, economical nor sufficiently sustainable to succeed. A technology that enables industrial upcycling of waste and mass production is essential to meet today’s urgent needs.

Vincent Kitio, head of UN Habitat's Urban Energy unit, which is responsible for several of the planned development projects in Africa, has stated:

«There is only one technology in the world today that can do something real about Africa’s housing deficiency and the plastic waste problem, and that is Othalo».

In connection with UN Habitat Day which in 2020 runs under the theme "Housing For ALL: A better Urban Future", UN Habitat's partnership with Othalo is launched. Victor Mokom Kisob, Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN HABITAT), states:

«As we celebrate the World Habitat Day 2020, UN-Habitat is partnering with Othalo to promote sustainable, adequate and affordable shelter for all»

Over the next 18 months, Othalo will develop its first series of building elements and designs for low-cost homes. The company expects to be ready to start mass production as soon the pilots are approved for this. Founder Frank Cato Lahti has since 2016 worked on developing the technology in partnership with experts in SINTEF and University in Tromsø, and has now teamed up with the well known "wunderkind" architect Julien De Smedt and prize winning serial entrepreneur and Young Global Leader Silje Vallestad.

«In thinking new environments we will set our focus towards the co-creation of living conditions in direct partnership with the local communities and end users. What we find particularly uplifting in our approach as a company and as architects is the desire to bridge the manufacturing world with the one of the local crafts and culture.» 

- Julien De Smedt 

«Othalo’s mission is like a kinderegg serving three-gifts-in-one; affordable quality houses for the one billion who live in slums, large volume recycling of plastic and job creation. Being part of leading this journey ticks of on everything that’s important to me in a startup. Othalo can create true impact!»

- Silje Vallestad

A 60 m2 Othalo house recycles 8 tonnes of plastic waste, and with the enormous need for low-cost housing globally, the system can help make a significant difference. Since 1950, more than 9 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced globally, of which only 9% is recycled. With today's plastic waste, more than 1 billion houses can be built.

Other will extend its product line to temperature controlled mobile storage units for food and medicine, refugee shelters and larger modular buildings (schools, hospitals, etc.). Manufacturing of all Othalo systems is planned to take place on site using local raw materials, and this will create thousands of jobs in the process. 


Supporting Material


Video broadcasted globally as part of UN Habitat Day 2020.

Launch video


Images for free use to support the story.

For free use


©2020 by Othalo