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A group of engineers has come up with an unusual plan to rebuild areas in Afghanistan damaged by the decades of war or shaken down by earthquakes: they want to use polystyrene.

The Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said it became interested when the US government committed to rebuilding many of the damaged homes, the BBC reports. It set out to design a house structure that was cheap, energy efficient and earthquake resistant, and went for polystyrene as its building material.

The FAS is now testing foam panels made by an Alabama man, H H Haddock. He says he used the foam panels in a house of his own in Alaska. The property was built in 1984, and Haddock says it is still performing perfectly, despite wind, rain and earthquakes.

The group says it is keen on the polystyrene idea because the material is so widely available. The panels would be made in Pakistan, then shipped to Afghanistan where they'd be wrapped in chicken wire and covered in a thin layer of concrete. At this point, the panels are tough enough to take the weight of a pick-up truck, Haddock says.

FAS has asked Harry van Burick, and architect with Shelter for Life International to design a two room home to be built from the foam panels.

The organisation says the political instability in the region makes it difficult to put a start date on building, but hopes to have its first foam building up in Kabul this year. ®

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