Arthur Huang: ‘We Take a lot of Risks — That’s How we Grow’

Arthur Huang

Co-founder and CEO of Miniwiz: Arthur Huang

The company Arthur Huang co-founded with Jarvis Liu in 2005, Miniwiz, has been praised by The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the World Economic Forum for its pioneering efforts to incorporate post-consumer recycling applications into a closed-loop building model.

Huang, a National Geographic explorer, had his Eureka moment in Rome, where rubbish had been used in ancient times to construct beautiful buildings. “These masterpieces of architecture, cut them open and there’s trash inside,” he realised, which led him to wonder: “Why can we not do that today?”

Huang proved that we can, with the construction of Taiwan’s EcoArk Pavilion. The nine-storey exhibition centre has a ventilation system created from recycled tech waste and a core of recycled steel. The building’s façade was constructed with 1.5 million plastic bottles, which were ground, melted and blow-moulded into proprietary Miniwiz Polli-Bricks, a structural building material made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polymer.

The bricks are translucent and naturally insulating, keeping energy costs low as sunlight enters the building. The blocks connect into a strong, interlocking, 3-D honeycomb structure. Computer simulations and field tests have shown Polli-Brick constructions to be resistant to earthquakes, fire and extreme weather.

Miniwiz began experimenting with the Polli-Brick concept in its first two years of operation but had delayed product development due to a lack of funding. It introduced a version of the bricks suited to interior use at a consumer electronics trade show in 2009. It was then approached by the Far Eastern Group to submit designs for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo.

Huang tossed the Polli-Brick concept in for consideration. “This was our daring endeavour,” he says. “We promised the technology was there already. In our mind it was there — but it could have been a disaster.” Miniwiz spent $200,000 in R&D before securing the contract. “We take a lot of risks,” says Huang. “That’s how we grow.”

By using upcycled materials, Huang managed to the keep the EcoArk budget to around $4m. Polli-Brick assembly costs a quarter of conventional systems. “There’s a similar sized building right across the street, constructed at the same time, under government traditional budget,” he says. “That building cost $40m.”

Apart from savings, recycling waste into building materials addresses a pressing global issue. “Our environment is being polluted by our consumption patterns,” Huang warns. “From packaging to fast-fashion to car batteries, we have to actively transform all this material that’s been collecting for the past 40 or 50 years. It’s not going away, so somebody has to deal with it.

“The best scenario is to make trash into a currency. So, the more valuable the transformation is, the more valuable the trash is.” Added value would stop consumers and conglomerates carelessly discarding trash — and stop wealthy economies shipping waste to developing countries.

Miniwiz has created portable, solar-powered, AI-driven machines to bring recycling to the streets and engage with the public. The company has expanded its product line-up to include eco-friendly shading and shelf systems, load-bearing Polli-Ber brick walls, origami-styled Ricefold ceiling and floor panels, and electronics-compatible Tetrapod modules.

The pandemic spurred Huang to turn his attention to the world’s overworked and under-supplied medical teams, building parts and components out of local trash. In partnership with the Fu Jen Catholic University Hospital, Miniwiz created the world’s first hospital ward entirely built from recycled materials.

“We don’t need to create new things,” Huang insists. “We just need to use our ingenuity, innovations — and our good heart and good brain — to transform these existing materials into the next generation of products and buildings to power our economy.”


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