Scrap Yard Building

This issue Lizzie Wynn introduces some building materials that can be found around the place for free. Not only are they a readily available resource that ticks all the reuse, recycle boxes, they are also easy to learn to use, as our intrepid eco-builder found out!

Bottles….any container for liquids, usually made of glass or plastic, with a narrow neck and no handle. Bottles are not new in building, but our ideas are. I started experimenting with bottle windows when I built a straw bale shed out of leftover materials from a straw bale house build. The windows did not need to open in the shed, as it’s a small building with plenty of ventilation from the large door and also breathes through the walls. So keeping with the ‘using up’ theme, I re-used some old bottles for the windows and I really liked the result. A client liked the look, so we did several in her stone house as well, and although I have yet to test the insulation values, they feel very snug compared with a single glazed window. They become even cosier if a vacuum is created in the bottle before capping and using. While initially we used them as a cost effective way to provide light to a room, the result was so pleasing and the finish can be extremely beautiful, I made more! The creative possibilities are endless. Building with bottles can be fun and very cost effective!

Cans…any metal container with a removable lid or cap, especially one for storing or packaging liquids such as drinks. Drink cans be used as building blocks, as promoted by Earthship’s ‘Garbage Warrior’, Michael Reynolds. He began with a wired together block of several cans, but he soon shelved that as too complicated and switched to the quicker method of using them individually, like bonded bricks. He recommends two parallel can walls with ties of re-bar or bamboo for stability and insulation added in between. This can also be done with bottles made of glass and plastic. I have now made several with cans, with varying techniques, using a lime mortar to stick them together and I’m impressed with the ease of build, structure and form. 

There are many other materials that can easily be found in areas where rubbish is collected or where there is building rubble, such as metal for reinforcement (useful to have an angle grinder and a generator in the car!) tiles, old basins and other fittings. Often there are many interesting items that with a little thought can be re-used with great finishes. I have found so many useful and lovely items, sometimes used in a not altogether obvious way, that I am extremely grateful for other people’s renovations!


Course in scrap yard building for women later this year, using all these materials.

Lizzie Wynn


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