Building a Home Out of 20,000 Toothbrushes and Denim Pants

ubCan you build a house entirely out of recycled goods? According to students at the University of Brighton, it’s definitely possible.

Duncan Baker-Brown, an architect teacher at the University, was depressed with the current amount of waste generated and not reused by the housing market. “For every five houses we build in the UK, the equivalent of one house in waste materials gets put into landfill,” he explains, adding that much of the material is still usable. So he and his students decided to spend a year building a home out of “garbage.”

The home is finished now, and, although the exterior — made from carpet tiles — is unusual, the interior of the home itself seems fairly normal and even upscale. The home is set up to be more of an educational tool than a real home, so peepholes throughout the home allow visitors to see the unique insulation materials being used.

About 20,000 toothbrushes, for example, were taken from a plane-cleaning company and used inside of the walls, along with stacks of denim from a firm that slices off pant legs to make cut-off jean shorts. A PhD student will be testing the various insulation materials throughout the year to see how well they perform compared to more traditional materials.

“Using recycled materials during new construction such as using rubber flooring adds to our planets sustainability,” says Rob Nelson, Vice President of Rebound USA, a company that creates cleaning solutions specific to synthetic floorings. “The use of recycled materials prevents the need to use additional resources and just makes plain good sense.”

“It’s a process of designing where you have to be agile, and maybe change your plans according to what becomes available,” says Baker-Brown. He admits that much of the home’s design probably couldn’t be replicated for a real home, and the project is more of an exercise to showcase the need to recycle home-building surplus material. “It’s more of a provocation, to say we need to see a step-change in how we use materials,” he explains. “There has to be a way of storing and reusing all the surplus, rather than throwing it in landfill.”

Hopefully, the project will serve as an inspiration for people who want to build and help conserve at the same time.

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