Eco-friendly is the new buzzword in construction, but what does it really mean for the industry? Can you build a house without the traditional 2 x 4's using renewable resources? You may be surprised to learn how creative the solutions can be.
1. Straw Bales: To be fair, people have used straw bales in construction for centuries. The bales are stacked and covered on a layer of plaster. Using straw in this manner is both environmentally-friendly and energy efficient because the resulting wall is thick with great insulating properties from both the cold of winter and the heat of summer, up to an R-60.
2. Shipping Containers: The business of shipping internationally has grown since the days of Marco Polo. In fact, transporting goods across the ocean in international shipping containers is fairly commonplace. Shipping containers are so plentiful that the 10,000 lost at sea each year does not even begin to put a dent in the supply.
Creative individuals have noticed the durability of these containers and called them into service as housing. The structures have a certain modern flair, especially when windows and interior fixtures are added.
3. Recycled Tires: The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, states that 290 million tires are thrown out each year in the U.S. alone. Luckily, over 80 percent of them are recycled or reused in one form or another. While shredded tires make a great landing place on the playground, tires are kept whole when used in construction.
Generally, they are filled with a 'rammed-earth' brick and stacked to form walls. Much like straw bale homes, they are then covered with plaster to form the undulating walls popular in the classic 'Earthship' bio-architectural style.
4. Plastic Bottles: Another green alternative building material is the simple plastic bottle. Only one in five water bottles are recycled each year. Another 2 million tons wind up in landfills, taking over 1,000 years to break down.
Finding another use for them as a construction material is a great way to keep them out of landfills. Bottles are strung together with wire and layered to build walls. Once again, a coating of a stucco-like substance adds to the overall aesthetic.
5. Shipping Pallets: Over 40 percent of the hardwoods harvested today are not for home construction, but rather for shipping pallets. The problem is that shipping pallets are rarely reused, and frequently end up in landfills. Lately, resourceful --and frugal-- homeowners are de-constructing wood pallets and using the wood for everything from siding to flooring.
If you step away from the lumber yard momentarily and think creatively, you can find any number of reusable products that can be transformed into building materials.