Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Two Port Elizabeth teenagers have challenged conventional building methods with their uncanny innovation for alternative low-cost roofing.

Destinee Frost and Sumaiyah Lagardien, grade 10 pupils at Westering High School, have developed a method to repurpose used vehicle tyres as roof tiles at a fraction of the cost of conventional tiles used by building contractors.

They now intend to patent their idea which earned them second place in the fourth Step Up 2 A Start Up Youth Entrepreneurship Awards last week.

The government’s official tyre-recycling project, Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of SA (Redisa), hit the skids several months ago. The High Court in Cape Town granted the order to the Department of Environmental Affairs over the alleged misappropriation of funds at Redisa, whose source of income was a national tyre levy. Its assets were transferred to the Waste Management Bureau.

Frost and Lagardien’s idea may be one solution to mop up excess used tyres.

"We chose this idea because we personally know of people who suffer from extreme heat in summer, extreme cold in winter and flooding," Frost said.

What followed was an exercise of extensive research and consultation with engineers to corroborate their theory. The duo enlisted the help of a Port Elizabeth nongovernmental organisation to conduct surveys in poorer communities where low-cost housing is prevalent, and where residents’ major gripe was faulty roofing.

Added to this was solving "the environmental problem of disposing [of used] tyres while providing insulation and waterproofing for low-income homes," says Lagardien.

The pair created a scale-model of the product, which they say is cheaper.

According to Lagardien, "ours is cheaper compared to your average roof tile, which is a R100 per square metre." The pair aims to sell theirs for R70 per square metre.

They need to raise R30,000 to buy equipment that will flatten and cut the tyres. The machine required is able to cut 30 tyres per hour. One tyre yields three tiles, and they can produce 90 tiles an hour.

The learners are also eager to protect their intellectual property. Similar products have been patented in the US and in Germany.

Frost says: "We adopted the idea … and then changed it for SA. If we see there’s a proper need in other communities then we’ll patent it around the world." The pair is hoping to employ an assistant to manage operations while they also focus completing high school.

The Youth Entrepreneurship Awards is the culmination of a five-month entrepreneurship development programme and competition for secondary school learners. It is sponsored by Standard Bank, MTN Foundation, Sasol and others. The competition is facilitated by Primestars, a division of Primedia. To date the programme has reached over 150,000 learners countrywide since inception four years ago.

The top nine teams that demonstrated the most innovative social or environmental business model were selected through a national competition and adjudication process.

Fisokuhle Lushaba and Wendy Nkosi, grade 11 pupils at Pace Secondary School in Soweto scooped first prize for their app Education Guide. The app allows students to compare universities, sponsorship and tuition on one platform.

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