I admire the British. They are so industrious about reusing materials in an unusual way. The Waste House is an example of their brilliance. Made almost entirely from waste and recycled materials, the house, built in 2014 at the University of Brighton’s Grand Parade campus, and designed by architect Duncan Baker-Brown of BBM Sustainable Design, it is an ongoing experiment in waste management.
But can garbage really be a viable alternative to construction materials? Well, according to Baker-Brown’s motto “there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place”, it can. And he proved it with the Brighton Waste House, which is the first permanent “carbon-negative” public building in Europe. About 90 per cent of it is made of waste materials.
The structure was built by a team of 253 students and volunteers, including undergraduates in architecture and interior architecture, apprentices from the Mears Group, and students from City College Brighton & Hove. The materials used included discarded plastic from construction industries as well as post-consumer items. For instance, some 20,000 used toothbrushes, 1.8 tons of denim jeans and 4,000 video cassettes fill the walls and act as insulation. Five-hundred bicycle inner tubes serve as window seals, while damaged plywood was used for flooring and other structural elements.
Most of the new materials used are high-performance windows and skylights. They perform at least 50 per cent better than standard widows and have an insulation value of R-5 or higher. New electrical wiring and plumbing was used to meet building codes and regulations.
Cat Fletcher, the founder of FREEGLE UK—an online platform for giving and receiving free stuff—suggested that this project be used to draw attention to the environmental consequences of discarding everyday domestic objects.
Now an open-design research studio, the Brighton Waste House is available to schools, colleges and community groups for sustainable-themed events. Interested parties may join in by hosting sustainable design workshops and events. •