Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Green Design: recycled homes

One of the ways to be more environmentally sensitive is to recycle what you would normally throw out or what someone else does not need into a new functional object. We do it all the time anyway, but perhaps not on a grand scale. For example, you might reuse a paper bag to cover a textbook or the glass jam jar to make pickled cucumbers. But some people spend all their time and energy just coming up with new ways to use something that would otherwise go to waste.

You might have noticed some Ikea products that are made from 'waste' materials, like the rocking chair out of banana peels for example. How about a whole house made from reused and recycled materials? Pictured above is a house that is made from disposed materials of Boston's Big Dig (yeah, your tax dollars at work). While 4,300 square feet can hardly be considered sustainable, it does demonstrate the possibility of luxury, comfort, and spaciousness, even from reused waste materials. I prefer a more modest approach that creates a living space sized to live modestly but comfortably. An example would be the Eco Label House, made from waste rice husk and recycled polymer. At a modest 500 square feet it is still bigger than a very comfortable one bedroom apartment that I lived in for a year. Great for newlyweds, bachelors, and retires. They also have a 1, 000 square foot design for those of us with kids. This one, unfortunately, is only suitable for warm climates, and they would never ship it outside of southeast Asia.

I am personally a fan of shipping container homes springing up all over Europe, and recently migrating here to the US. These homes can range from very modest prefab to luxury with the involvement of an architect. Just a little creativity and you can design it in a way that nobody would know it is a shipping container, or you can make it evident like in the photo above.

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