Recycled Materials Used in Building – Part 1

Recycled Materials Used in Building – Part 1


Recently, I watched a re-run of a UK Grand Designs episode from 2009 in which a couple were filmed building an eco-friendly house using recycled materials. View it for yourself here. The couple decided to move to Brittany in Northern France where they purchased a plot of land to build a family home, taking their inspiration from an “earthship”. This episode was of great interest to me and inspired me to share some methods and out of the ordinary ideas for building using recycled materials.

In this episode, the couple opted to use recycled tires to build the walls of their home. This isn’t a new idea; it began in New Mexico in early 70’s. Tires are stacked in a staggered fashion and manually filled with compressed soil – a labor intensive process. Tires are a great option for walls as they possess heat regulating properties due to their rubber composition. Although they may not be aesthetically pleasing to many, I personally think they add character.

In most cases, sourcing should not be too difficult. Tires should be readily available from most recycling plants and with a bit of luck, can be acquired free of charge. If construction is taking place in an urban area, there are likely to be issues with local building control. This would have to be researched thoroughly during the planning process. Once the tires are in situ and packed with soil, they are clad with adobe which is prepared with mud, clay and straw.

Reclaimed stone is another example of a recycled material that can be utilized when building a home. This can, for example, be sourced from demolition or excavation sites. The stone, once cleaned up, would be perfect for feature walls, fireplaces, etc. Recycled slate is more commonly used and although not out of the ordinary, worth mentioning due to its lower cost compared to buying it new and should still last for hundreds of years.

Timber sourced from loft conversions can be of great quality if removed in a caring manner. This unfortunately, isn’t often the case however as it is thought to be waste. If an offer is made to the owner to remove the timber free of charge you’d be surprised what you could get it for, if anything at all.

In this episode of Grand Designs, glass bottles which had been sawn in half were used in an internal feature wall. Recycled glass can also be used to manufacture windows. Plastic bottles picked up from the side of the road can be used to produce insulation wool to insulate loft spaces.

Some of these ideas, if not done in the correct way, may end up having a dreadful appearance. But if done in the correct way, can be used to create a quirky building with reduced building costs; not to mention the low environmental impact.  That’s why using recycled building products should be at the forefront of our minds.

Stay tuned for part 2 on this topic; which promises to provide more information on recycled materials that can be utilized to produce eco-friendly buildings.

Design Administration

Gould Design, Inc.

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