Technology: Solid As Steel, Light as a Cushion

Science is giving industry a versatile array of new building blocks

Even from a distance, the grayish two-story home with panoramic windows and pointed chimney casts a distinctive profile against the suburban sky. But only a closer inspection reveals what is truly unique about this house. Instead of sporting bricks or aluminum siding, the dwelling is covered with superstrong, superdurable plastic panels. The shingles on its vaulted roof are made not of wood but of another tough plastic; so too, in fact, are the floors, doorframes, light fixtures, plumbing pipes and even the windows.

This experimental "plastic" house, built by General Electric in Pittsfield, Mass., is perhaps the most striking use so...

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