Abundant in the lakes, rivers and streams surrounding Phnom Penh, water hyacinths are easily collected, and often used for compost or even to weave into hammocks.

A group of third-year architecture students from Paragon University have discovered a modern, sustainable construction material that can replace floor, ceiling tiles and imported plaster decorative panels, all stem from the humble water hyacinth.

AquaBuild has targeted the production of sustainable and environmentally friendly construction materials that can be sourced directly from Tonle Sap Lake.

While carrying out the research, they also discovered that water hyacinths can have detrimental effects on the aquatic environment. An invasive species, that cause water flow congestion, reduce biodiversity,  prevent sunlight and oxygen from reaching other aquatic plants.

Kao Satya, a member from AquaBuild team, explained that after selecting water hyacinths as their primary component, they were uncertain how to proceed, as the concept is relatively new.

Although the raw materials are inexpensive, AquaBuild acknowledges that industrial production will require specialised equipment which they, being students, unaffordable. As a result, they have to wait a long hour to dry their plant material, thereafter use kitchen blenders to grind it into powder.

The final product is a panel, akin to plywood and flooring tiles, which can be affixed as flooring, ceilings or wall decoration. It is lighter than plaster and does not conduct heat.

“After four and a half months of hard work, we won first place in Impact Hub Phnom Penh’s Build4People Sustainable Building Incubator. We were awarded a trophy with certification, and USD 2,000 cash prize,” said Kimsenh.

“Participating in the competition also gave us invaluable business knowledge and enabled us to understand and apply real-world principles instead of only theoretical learning,” he added.

Se Chanchorornay, the third member of the group, said they believe they have discovered a genuine business opportunity, but that their initial focus would be on refining the product so they could guarantee its quality.



Flatiron by Meridian, Unit FO-1401, Street 102
Phnom Penh City Center, Phum 1, Sangkat Srah Chak
Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia


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