Unusual Building Materials – Recycled, Used, Sustainable

July 2, 2008 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

If you are looking among the various websites suggesting ways to create sustainable buildings you might be amazed at the choices that are available.

Now I have found houses made of all kinds of materials, some of which frankly I can’t see a building inspector in California giving the green light to.  Some of the oldest technology is to be found in building a straw house.  I believe the information presented as far as the insulation values and such however I would be worried about the structural integrity over time.  What appears to be a pretty comprehensive site on this subject is here: http://www.greenbuilder.com/sourcebook/strawbale.html. It is interesting to note that the site clearly shows that there are regulatory problems with this tyoe of construction and all of the associations listed are found in places where earthquakes are very rare.

Another technique that has gotten some press is with used tires and packed earth.  This is different from the rammed earth buildings I have posted about earlier. (https://askthefm.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/rammed-earth-buildings-not-for-me-but-maybe-for-you/)  One of the highest profile advocates of this technique is Earthship Biotechture (http://www.earthship.net/).  They are currently building a demonstration project in the Netherland Antillies during the month of July 2008.  This type of building seems like a good fit for this area as it is massive and is often shown built into the side of a hill.  It would probably survive the the severe weather found in the Carribean.

Now if you aren’t quite this adventerous there are plenty of sites to help you build a converntional house with recycled, used or otherwise sustainable materials. SustainableABC.com (http://www.sustainableabc.com/recycled.html) has a California centric directory for these materials.  Another good one is PlanetReuse.com (http://www.planetreuse.com/how_it_works) that looks to work like a Craig’s List type setup for extra, used or available building materials.  It appears to have current listings in most of the 50 states.

Now if you just want to look at some of this houses, this site shows examples of the five more common types of recycled architecture: http://weburbanist.com/2007/10/23/5-kinds-of-creative-recycled-architecture-cans-bottles-and-other-unusual-building-materials/

On the up and coming front I found a recent patent (http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5241795.html)


The invention relates to building materials made from paper sludge,
repulped waste paper, or virgin paper pulp, mixed with clay and portland
cement, or animal protein adhesives, or manufactured resins or polymers.
Specifically the invention relates to a building system using this
material in the form of building blocks that are glued together during
assembly and are intended to be used for above grade exterior and interior
walls. A block design which increases the R-value and other building
products made of this material are covered in this invention. The material
of this invention has unusual compression strength properties such that;
when an imposed load limit is reached which begins to compress the
material, the material does not break apart, but rather compresses
slightly and allows considerably more load to be imposed without failure
of the material to hold the superimposed load.

It will be interesting to see what this stuff actually is…..

Lastly here is my canidate for the house built out of the most unsual material, the Agate House.

Frome the waymarking.com website: (http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM14DV)

“It is not so much the shape that makes this building unique, but its on-of-a-kind building material. It is petrified wood! The location is Petrified Forest National Park, where, 225 million years ago, a lot of tall trees were washed into a floodplain, where a mix of silt, mud and volcanic ashes buried the logs. The sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs decay. Silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallized into quartz, and the logs were preserved as petrified wood. Since the quartz rock of the petrified logs was a lot sturdier than all the other building materials (clay and sand stone), petrified wood was an obvious choice.”

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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Entry filed under: Design, Recycling, Technology. Tags: , , .

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