Editorial Feature

Homes Made from Recycled Materials

Climate change and environmental degradation are most likely to be the factors that led to people starting to design and construct green houses or homes constructed purely out of everyday waste/recycled materials. This concept is catching on as green houses are not only environment-friendly, but also assist sustainability and conservation of the environment.

Every year tons of waste materials pile up in landfills around the world, making them source points for green house builders. People like Dan Phillips, founder of The Phoenix Commotion, have proved that the green house concept is plausible by starting his low-income housing initiative. He builds houses that are aesthetic as well as energy-efficient with minimum costs. He sources his building materials from all over including flea markets and auto-salvage yards. You will find his ceilings tiled with old license plates to doors crafted with colorful bottles. He has even galvanized local companies to donate their leftover materials to his cause, and the government to provide tax exemptions to these companies.

Green houses are smart homes that comply with law of the land as well as the law of Mother Nature.

Recycled Homes

The ingenuity of the green houses amazes most people. Stacked tires, beer bottles, re-sculpted old bricks, or even an abandoned boat can be made into a house. What is viewed as junk by many is looked at as possible building materials by people keen on preserving the earth.

A mountain home in Patagonia has flattened tomato tins forming exterior tile surface, a schoolhouse in San Pablo, Philippines is made purely from plastic bottles while a spectacular Buddhist temple in Thailand is built only of brown and green beer bottles.

The following structures give a better picture into existing green houses:

  • Decommissioned ships and boats - These form unique house concepts and will be the talk of the town. The Ship House of Dalmatia, Croatia is a decommissioned ship that has been expertly converted into a house. The Ship Residence’ on South Bass Island, Ohio is yet another example.
  • Recycled glass/ plexiglass/waste glass – For those interested in light-filled houses, glass makes an excellent option. Kolonihavehus is a model green house that is designed with plexiglass panels colored by builder Tom Fruin to provide it a stained glass effect.
  • Grain silos – Interested in round rustic houses? Grain silo is the answer. It can be given a modern look as well. An innovative idea has been used to construct a house in American Midwest where two silos were linked by a hallway. The Gruene Homestead Inn in Texas has used silos as guest chambers.
  • Tires – Eco-houses known as ‘Earthships’ use old tires as the chief building material. These are found in many parts around the deserts of the U.S. Tires when filled with mud form a thermal mass that can regulate the internal temperature of the house. If needed the outer surface of the tires can be coated with a mud mixture to change the obvious appearance. The earthquake-ravaged country of Haiti has used this concept to provide affordable shelter.
  • Shipping pallets – Generally, these are made of hardwood so as to enable transportation of heavy items. Often these are thrown away after a few uses. The pallets can form the building blocks for houses. A large modern house in Curacavi, Chile, has used pallets painted white for cladding to provide natural cooling, light, and ventilation.
  • Reclaimed wood - The Treehouse of Hyeres is affine example of a house build from reclaimed wood. The various colors of the wood itself provide beauty to the house.
  • Abandoned barns - Not only are these spacious but give a rustic touch to the house. Farms are slowly becoming a thing of the past with cities expanding at a faster rate than ever before. Hence the abandoned barns can be used to make lovely houses. Belgium’s reclaimed barn house is one such example.
  • Shipping containers – These are available around the world and can be stacked up to make compact houses. The containers can be cut and provided openings and then lifted by cranes and stacked on top of each in pre-designed patterns. Today shipping container house plans are readily accessible.
  • Recycled scraps of slate - The House of Stone in Milan and the Ty Pren residence in South Wales are stunning creations made from these materials.
  • Plastic bottles - Millions of plastic bottles are thrown into the trash, but in the hands of an architect its purpose is changed. The model bottle house was built with 1300 wine and milk bottles for the roof and several pet bottles were used to make couches and beds as well.


Green houses are works of art. Earthship Biotecture of Taos, New Mexico, have created several of these. Their sustainable houses are termed ‘Earthships’ and are made only of recycled materials. It is easy to construct anywhere in the world and can still provide potable water, sewage treatment facility, electricity, and means for food production.

Earthships are adaptable, versatile and most of all economical. The design principles are as follows:

  • Electricity from sun and wind
  • Water from rain and snow
  • Heating and cooling from sun and earth.
  • Building with natural and recycled materials
  • Sewage to be treated
  • Food that is grown inside and outside

An eco-house by engineer Steve James is a DIY housing project that used straw bales to make the walls upright and sturdy, and a roof with turf surface decorated with flowering plants and fruits. It has its own rainwater drainage and collection system along with a composting toilet. The final touch is a wood burning stove in the kitchen. This house is simple yet aesthetic, and goes to show that green houses can be decorated according to the resident’s taste. Waste disposal is a huge task faced by every country. If these ideas could be put to use, it would save a lot of the country’s money as well be beneficial to the environment.

Affresol of Swansea, Wales, is a company that has literally solved much of Wales waste disposal issue by designing a building made from 18 t of recycled waste plastic. The company has the financial support of the Welsh Assembly Government, and they design low-carbon, eco-friendly homes and 4-tonne modular portable buildings with a new technology, that is likely to revolutionize the building industry. They have created a new building material called Thermo Poly Rock (TPR) from recycled plastics and minerals, and a patented low energy cold process that transforms the plastics into a very sturdy structural component.

The new material panels are used as the load bearing frame of the house. Externally, it can be clad with any other common material such as stone or brick, and internally it can be plastered and insulated in the usual manner. The benefits of TRP are immense. The list below is the reason why TRP is set to change building concepts:

  • Stronger and lighter than concrete
  • Waterproof
  • Fire retardant
  • Rot-free
  • Excellent insulation properties
  • Life of TRP-houses- 60+years.


Several companies globally have embarked on ‘green projects’. The domestic heating and water system company, Worcester Bosch had ordered the first modular building from Affresol for its Worcestershire plant in 2010.

Reasons why green houses will gain popularity in the days to come:

  • Green homes will have natural light throughout the daytime
  • Less costs per home as electricity usage is greatly reduced with natural heating and cooling
  • Many of the materials are readily available at very cheap rates, e.g. tires and unmodified pallets
  • Easy and quick to construct
  • Low-cost housing that can provide shelter to many people in third-world countries
  • Waste materials can also be used to make furniture for the homes
  • Unique, feasible, and customized options
  • More responsible way to dispose waste than burning
  • Better for the earth
  • Hardly anything is wasted

With companies and governments getting involved in green house projects, there is a good chance that these concepts will grow bigger and better in the coming years.


Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.


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