Thrive! Not just survive.
With the rapid changes in our building practices, we are using more and more natural resources to produce new materials to construct buildings with. It is necessary to consider all stages of life of the materials; the production, the construction, the life cycle, and the demolition. Each construction material is manufactured from raw materials, energy, and produces waste. Often these materials are manufactured far from the construction site and energy is expended through transportation efforts. Many construction materials are non-recyclable such as insulation and vinyl tiling, and thus when a building is no longer deemed useful in the condition it is in, it is demolished. Demolition produces massive amounts of waste that cannot be dealt with. It is estimated that a 2,000 square foot home produces about 4 to 7 tons of waste costing approximately $1,400 in waste disposal costs. Most of this waste is recyclable such as concrete, and mixed wood and drywall. A reuse of this waste, or prevention of it in the first place, saves energy not only in production but also by reducing the use of landfills.
A clear step towards a better built environment is taking the waste we have produced in other aspects of our life and putting it towards building materials. There have been small movements toward using sustainable materials and recycled materials in building but they are not widespread movements. The waste we produce includes aluminum, paper, glass, plastic, and other solid wastes. Using these materials in construction does not only create greener buildings but also eliminate this waste from landfills or recycling centers that often expend more energy than they are saving. Aluminum cans, of which we use 80,000,000,000 a year, and plastic bottles, of which we use 2,500,000 per hour, can be used for constructing interior, non-structural walls or when coupled with a structural system can be used to make strong exterior walls. Glass bottles can be used for windows and colored light elements in buildings. In 1990, over 240 million scrap tires were discarded in the United States alone and approximately 3 billion waste tires had piled up in landfills and stockpiles. Every year, over 77% of the annual production of scrap tires were land filled, stockpiled or dumped. We use rammed earth in recycled automobile tires to create EXTREMELY STRONG load-bearing walls. These tires also provide thermal mass to store temperature and lower heating and cooling costs. The only things that deteriorate the tires are sunlight and fire, neither of which is a problem in the use of buildings because they are plastered over. The tires also are resilient to earthquakes and hurricanes because they are a non-brittle building element. There are no concerns about tires off gassing because research has proven that tires stop off gassing after 2 years of exposure or twenty thousand miles.
Tires and cans being used to build a wall
And On and On
In every way possible we use recycled materials. Many are free and bring the cost of our buildings down.