Can garbage be used as an eco-material to construct a house? That's the intriguing premise behind the recently-completed Waste House project, which is believed by those involved to be the first permanent British building built almost solely from waste and recycled materials. Constructed at the University of Brighton's Grand Parade campus, the Waste House is an ongoing experiment which aims to prove, in the organizer's own words, that "there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place."
A team of 253 students and apprentices led by BBM Architects Director and senior lecturer Duncan Baker-Brown spent three months designing, and another 12 building the house, with work completed in April this year. Around 90 percent of the materials that went into making the structure are waste products that were derived from various household and construction sites.
This included some 20,000 toothbrushes (used once by business and first class aircraft passengers), 2 tons (1.8 tonnes) of denim jeans, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, and 2,000 used carpet tiles – the latter used to clad the home's facade.
The frame and floors of Waste House are made from recycled wood, and the house also features a rammed-earth wall built from compacted chalk waste and clay. The rammed earth wall, made from 11 tons (10 tonnes) of chalk waste and 10 percent of clay, adds to the structure's energy-efficiency thanks to its 35 cm (13.7 in) thickness and natural thermal properties.
In addition, 4,000 VHS video cassettes are used as wall insulation, 100 sheets of used and damaged plywood are used for flooring, joists, columns and other structural purposes, while 500 bike inner tubes serve as window seals and soundproofing.
Some of the few new materials that went into Waste House include high-performance triple-glazed windows, a breathable facade membrane, and high-performance skylights. There's also new electrical wiring and plumbing to meet modern safety and health standards.
It's hoped the lessons learned from the Waste House could lay the foundations for a new kind of sustainable architecture. A series of sensors in the external walls of Waste House will monitor the home's insulation properties at key points and measure just how efficiently the different materials perform. In the meantime, it will serve as an exhibition space and design studio, and is available to schools, colleges and community groups for green-themed events and workshops.
Baker-Brown gives a tour of the house pre-completion, revealing some of the materials used throughout.
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