Can we make a building with trash? Abandoned things, recycling, and waste can be found almost everywhere, making them a valuable and free resource. This trash becomes valuable as a building material because first, it’s free, and second, it helps lighten the load of cast off waste that we pollute the earth with. Doing this will not eliminate the overflow of waste, but it can help to reduce a few layers of landfill. So, why don’t we use the superfluous garbage materials for buildings?

Earthships, whose idea was conceived and carried out by architect Michael Reynolds, are buildings made mostly out of recycled materials. The foundation consists of abandoned tires filled with soil, which retain a lot of moisture due to the soil packed into the building materials. The walls are made of abandoned cans and glass bottles, which are placed liked bricks and held together with cement. Once the wall is hardened with cement, it becomes very stable, and is in no way inferior to other, more conventional building materials. In addition, the recycled bottles and cans provide a surprisingly attractive and colorful decorative feature for the building, which gives each Earthship it’s own unique look. On average, 1,000 to 3,500 tires are used for each Earthship, along with an average of 10,000 cans and glass bottles.

The policy surrounding Earthships states that the securing of natural materials that will place stress on the earth, such as cutting down trees for wood, will not be used, as it does have negative impact in the architects opinion. Therefore, only abandoned materials and natural products that will not have a negative environmental impact (such as driftwood), are used for Earthships. This project is considers not only the architecture of the building, but also eco-friendly energy supplies as well. For example, rainwater is saved in a tank attached to the Earthship to be used instead of fossil water, and wind power and solar power features are also present, to generate natural and eco-friendly electric energy. The rainwater that is saved is filtered with natural bacteria to provide safe drinking water as well. These activities remind me how this project is very strictly confined to environmentally friendly actions.

The price of Earthship is $200,000 to 400,000, including the electric power generations. The cost is similar to the average price of a U.S. house, and you do not need to pay the utility fee every month. If you want to save money and the earth, Earthships are a wonderful option.



One comment

  1. This idea is very intriguing. I want to respond positively to the idea that so much waste otherwise destined for landfills is being up-cycled into very unique and beautiful buildings, but I have trouble with some areas of the idea. Firstly, concrete is very energy intensive to produce and can only be down-cycled into a second life. The use of concrete as a bonding agent is in some ways negating the environmental benefits of re-claiming the waste to be used as a building material.

    I also really like the idea of onsite energy production and water collection and purification. However, the use of photovoltaic is also incredibly expensive and complicated in terms of its manufacturing so I am not sure it is the best compliment for this idea of a recycled products house.

    Finally, while I don’t doubt that the sustainability of the building can eventually pay for the initial expense of the house, I am shocked that a house made of garbage (which in this blog is identified as a free building material) costs as much if not more as one made of manufactured building materials. I think these points of conflict are evidence to the fact that while this effort is to be commended for making existing waste out of landfills, it still does not combat the real problem of waste production in general. This project has great potential and I think paired with the right material scientists and biologist the technology could be developed to create a bonding agent that does not consume energy or produce waste like concrete and come up with a system of solar collection that is more efficient and less expensive that manufacturing photovoltaic cells. If we were able to achieve these goals we could produce beautiful, inexpensive buildings from materials locally available to virtually every corner of the globe, garbage. Despite the conflicts, the current goals and buildings constructed under this Earthship banner are quite remarkable in their use of waste materials and energy and rainwater harvesting. I look forward to seeing where this idea might go in the future with continued innovations in material science and biomimicry.

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