The Recycled Waste House

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In this article we look at the Brighton Waste House, a fine example of ecology and architecture working together in a sustainable way.


‘The Brighton Waste House investigates strategies for constructing a contemporary, low energy, permanent building using over 85% ‘waste’ material drawn from household and construction sites. Now fully completed, the building is Europe’s first permanent public building made almost entirely from material thrown away or not wanted. It is also an EPC ‘A’ rated low energy building.’


Imagine making a house from toothbrushes, old CDs and floppy disks. Imagine filling the inner walls with denim and covering the outer walls in carpet tiles. It does all seem a bit, beyond the imagination. But for Duncan Baker-Brown and his team of undergraduate structures students, it was a reality. The build, which took 11 months, has resulted in an Eco-house quite different to it’s contemporaries.
Many would be quick to assume an eco-house to be built within nature or by using nature, not by using rubbish. The sustainable method of using recycled materials means that buildings can be put together for considerably less (than brick). That’s not evident from this particular build which is estimated to have cost in the region of £300,000, but it is a model for the future. This was in fact the second version of this house, with the original being designed by Baker-Brown and the well-reknowned Kevin McCloud.

Community project

It wasn’t just the structures students who built the house, young carpenters from the City College Brighton & Hove created the frame of the house from recycled plywood and timber. The waste house project was active in ‘engaging the community by working with City College Brighton and Hove, and Mears Group, allowing students and apprentices a chance to work on a live construction project. While being constructed over 750 school pupils from over 35 local primary, secondary and tertiary colleges visited the Brighton Waste House site.’
The Brighton Waste House is not designed to be the prototype for urban eco-buildings. However, it is an indication that architects are thinking of sustainable ways of design and construction managers are finding sustainable ways of sourcing materials. The recycled toothbrushes we mentioned earlier, they were sourced from Gatwick airport, having been used just once by business class and first class passengers.

A model for the future

Baker-Brown, talking about the sustainable building model, said “It’s more of a provocation, to say we need to see a step-change in how we use materials. The current ethos in the industry is to throw loads of material at the building site, rather than risk having people hanging around if anything runs out. There has to be a way of storing and reusing all the surplus, rather than throwing it in landfill.”

A new UK surplus building material trading website called Enviromate is providing just one solution to the problem of construction waste. They are keen to create a more sustainable and waste conscious construction industry, considering the waste stream at all levels. Enviromate said “It’s imperative we focus and help save the earth we live on not just in the construction industry but across the board – the construction industry being one of the largest in the world, can and should be at the forefront of change and reducing waste and help to channel that excess to greater use.”

Could you live in this house?

Photo credits (Gizmag, Homecrux, University of Brighton Arts)

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