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Building a fully recycled house, an (old) ecological trend

earthship sulu

Building your house from waste, a crazy and innovative project? Not that much, if at all in terms of ecological trend and sustainability. Many nature lovers and other imaginative tinkerers are increasingly embarking on the adventure, with sometimes strange, but often spectacular and remarkably aesthetic results. The very concept of recycling construction waste is nothing new; Already, nearly half a century earlier, American hippies had embarked on the adventure, with a success still relevant today.

Everything is recyclable ... Only imagination and skill count

Building a house from recycled materials requires a lot of imagination, and strong DIY skills. For the rest, the diversity of materials leaves the choice for the final realization. Tires, beer cans, bottles, cardboard, wooden pallets… The main thing is to get everything together. Many original models thus exist all over the world. It is also not necessary to methodically align small elements; the use of large arranged parts (scrap, steel, and other heavy materials of recovery) can just as well.

The most extreme cases even directly recycle objects and entire structures: upturned boat hulls, abandoned grain silos and mills, or even bunkers from World War II ... which even in these very original examples still requires serious safety work, not to mention comfort.

The ecological Eartship phenomenon

The concept of building houses with recycled materials is not new - a finding that is often valid in many aspects of sustainable development. As early as the 1970s, spectacular and vast houses were built out of bottles, tires and other cans. Invented by the American architect Michael Reynolds, the Eartships phenomenon was already aimed at limiting the impact on nature, even though the context of the time tended above all towards massive industrialization, far from environmental concerns. Eartship was especially part of a very hippie setting, with the desire to return to the land. However, the Eartship project rested on solid foundations, as the houses have survived the decades and multiplied, unlike the counter-culture movement. Over 1,000 Eartships exist today, mostly in their home country, the United States.

The concept of Eartships, already revolutionary at the time, is even more so nowadays, in the context of sustainable development. The idea was to push to the extreme the detachment from the consumer society, to tend towards self-sufficiency, and therefore complete autonomy. The use of fully recycled materials for construction already makes the Eartship a benchmark in green building; the houses built are also very large and spacious, with a concern for aesthetics and artistic qualities that are often obvious. The binders and coatings used for the finishes are themselves eco-materials, such as clay, cob, or straw.

But the Earthisp also multiplies all ecological solutions, using all existing and imaginable alternative and “green” energies. In addition to installing solar panels, the Eartships reuse rainwater as much as possible. Equipped with green roofs, the houses collect the rainwater which is used for the dishes and the showers, before being used to water the glass roof - because the inhabitants produce their own food themselves. The water is also reused for the toilets, before it is finally channeled outside to be filtered by inedible plants - no need for sewerage.

In the end, the inhabitants of Eartships live in total autonomy, their houses producing and consuming their own alternative energies. The autarky of buildings is also the current and somewhat “futuristic” concept, if one may say so, of Positive Energy Buildings (BEPOS), still very limited in France. Also based on self-sufficiency, BEPOSs must be able to produce more energy than they consume; this type of building should become compulsory in France for all new constructions from… 2020. That is to say almost half a century after the Eartships.

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