From waste to space – the Brighton Waste House

oliver General, Materials, Natural stuff, Recycling / upcycling

I’ve talked before about how domestic products are just 1% efficient, it takes 40 tonnes of material to create 1 tonne of useful stuff, and of that 98% gets thrown away! Using household and business waste – from toothbrushes to cassette tapes (remember those?) – to do something amazing like build a house, is not only a mega transformation but is also truly sustainable.

Brighton Waste House

And that’s exactly what some ambitious students and faculty from Brighton University have done – using 20,000 toothbrushes from first-class flights, 10,000 DVD, VHS and floppy disks, a couple of tonnes of castoff denim and another couple of thousand old carpet tiles – all saved from incineration and landfill. You can actually see some of the old tapes and disks through little windows into the wall insulation, giving even the innards of the house more symbolism, or at least nostalgia, than typical bricks and mortar.

Interior of wall made from VHS cases

It’s the first permanent building in the UK to be made from 85% waste. It even includes a rammed earth wall – waste chalk and clay packed together – to make it warm and energy efficient.

Community-led building

More than a structure you can actually walk around , the 12-month project involved students and apprentices building the house together. It hosts art exhibitions and talks, and has brought-in companies and communities from around Brighton to contribute.

Vent-Axia donated a heat and ventilation system to contribute to the building’s ’s ‘A’ energy rating, and the local Freegle group helped with waste collection. Waste rubber from tyres helped waterproof the roof, recycled timber wood bolstered the structure, and surplus clay blocks were installed by bricklaying students.

The final house is the result of the hard work of the community and lots of generosity – so it uses lots of surplus materials, new technology like solar panels, and upcycled interior features.

A learning space for the future

Projects like this really get people thinking and excited. Being able to walk in and around it, and actually have a permanent building for events, art, and learning, gives the project lasting value. Plus, students and volunteers who helped build it have gone on to paid jobs in architecture and construction. The house is part of their story – and who knows what beautiful and sustainable things they might create in the future.

It’s a test bed to demonstrate the benefits of different materials, plus, it’s a centre-point for sustainable to discussion to happen around – and there aren’t enough of those. Especially in the very centre of our cities, as this is in Brighton.

Find out more about the Brighton waste house at their university website.