April 3, 2023

BBC News


Plastic windows designed by a PhD student are helping transform uninhabitable houses in war-torn parts of Ukraine into liveable homes.

Harry Blakiston Houston created the Insulate Ukraine project to replace bullet and bomb-damaged windows.

According to the United Nations, millions of people in Ukraine live in buildings with insufficient protection.

“We’ve come up with a solution that makes a real difference,” the University of Cambridge student said.

He has paused his biotechnology studies to concentrate on the initiative, which has already installed hundreds of windows across Ukraine.

Mr Blakiston Houston designed it as a simple way to make a difference to those in liberated areas of Ukraine who have been left picking up the pieces following Russian retreats.

“There was an old woman in Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, who had been sleeping in her bathtub for two months because it was the warmest place in her house,” he said.

“We were able to get her back to some kind of normality after the windows went in.

“The house was immediately warmer and lighter – she was able to rearrange everything and actually live in her home again.

“That was the start of it – the signal we needed, to go, ‘right, OK, we’re on to something here’.”

The window design uses polyethylene, PVC piping, pipe insulation and duct tape, to create four layers of insulation.

It costs around £12 per square metre of window, and can be built at home in 15 minutes.

The project aims to create hubs across the country that can replace any shattered window within 24 hours, with the work largely being carried out by local people.

Fedor Tikva, 64, of Izyum, eastern Ukraine, told the PA news agency it had been impossible to live in his home after it was damaged by nearby bombing.

“All windows there were broken, even the frames were partly damaged,” he said.

“I am happy now because after the installation of all the windows the house became more cosy, warmer and lighter.

“Before the installation it was too dark and cold inside.”

Mr Blakiston Houston said: “Part of Putin’s war is about trying to make people in Ukraine cold and miserable.

“It’s about breaking their resolve to actually continue defending themselves.

“We’re essentially empowering Ukrainians because we’re giving them a way to solve this problem for themselves.

“All we have to do is show them how to build the windows and help them to get hold of the materials.”