Coconuts as option for roofing?

Growing interest in coconut cultivation seen after successful festival

From copra to piña coladas, the coconut has a wide range of uses. Now it is making an appearance as a possible roofing material.

A team of students and professors at the Institute of Technology of Colima (Itec) has developed an alternative roofing product made from the husk of the coconut.

During a first stage, the team replaced the commonly used fiberglass with coconut fiber, mixing it with a polyester resin to meld all the elements. After the product didn’t provide the expected results, the team decided instead to try coir, the fiber in the coconut’s outer husk.

Professor José Ricardo Moreno Peña explained that a key motivator in their research was creating a sustainable product. The coconut fiber is usually discarded as trash or burned, and is readily available throughout the state.

Early tests have shown that the uniquely-shaped sheets of roofing are strong but Moreno said more testing will determine their structural tolerance to determine if it can be used for building.

The product is also something that people can make themselves.

“Our purpose is to offer safe self-assembly alternatives for people who with their own work will be able to produce this sheet roofing. Our product will provide a shelter from the elements from the get-go, but we plan in future design stages to add a thermal resistance element,” said Moreno.

Once the technical feasibility and resilience of the sheets is satisfactorily tested, the team will focus on further improving the product.

Architecture and design student Joel Vargas Montes said the sheets are different from any others currently available on the market.

He said they are composed of pyramid-like structures that distribute the load throughout the sheet.

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The recently-held Guyana Coconut Festival has been deemed a success as more people are expressing interest in cultivation that could boost the revival of the industry.

“A lot of people have been waiting on the opportunity to invest in coconut and that was what we actually wanted to get out of the festival,” Raymond Trotz, a producer and Chairman of the National Stakeholders Platform (NPS), told Stabroek News in an interview.

The festival, held from October 21 to October 23 under the theme ‘Awakening the Sleeping Giant,’ was part of the activities planned for Coconut Awareness Week.

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