Eco-Casa: Roll out the Tyres

With eco-building very much in vogue these days, the increasing interest has inevitably led to a rapid growth in products catering to this market. These materials are often expensive and may have travelled great distance to reach their destination so negating their eco-credentials. Lizzie Winn, co-director of Eco-Casa points out that traditional building is really the true ‘eco-building’, working with materials that can be found close by. “A traditional Alpujarran house uses stone for foundations; stone, earth and lime for walls and chestnut wood, slate, caña (cane) and launa (a clay rich / waterproof soil) for roofing materials,” Lizzie told La Chispa on the site of her latest project. “These buildings have lasted for hundreds of years and we still have plenty of natural and free resources on our doorstep. One that many people haven’t considered includes old car tyres.”
Millions of tyres are disposed of every year, and while many are now recycled, there are plenty of good uses eco-builders can find for them. Tyres make great building blocks, Lizzie of Eco-Casa tells us. “Tyres have become well known recently as the ‘Earthship’ concept has really taken off. But tyres can be used for any building work, in the garden or as a retaining wall.” A tyre can be transformed into a brick by putting it in position and filling it up with soil, gravel or rubble and compacted. The tyres are placed like bricks, bonding together like an ordinary wall. The gaps are filled with stones, or drink cans, with mortar (mud for example) then plastered as normal. The result is a thick, strong, breathable wall which is earthquake resistant. Although it is labour intensive a stone wall of equal width would be labour intensive too and would require greater skill. This method is much faster yet has similar qualities to stone walls and can be learnt by almost anyone in about ten minutes. This year Eco-Casa have built an underground water storage tank using about 700 tyres and a round cool storeroom using about 100. “The modern eco-builder can be resourceful and does not have to be such a consumer,” Lizzie pointed out. “There are plenty of other building materials on our doorstep, when we know what to look for….”

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