If our world was measured by geometry, it could be said we’re living in a linear economy. We work, buy, consume and die. Or, as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation describes it, “we take, make and dispose.”
Relying on infinite natural resources disposed of in dumping grounds, our rapid consumption and booming global population are diminishing resources that matter; water, oil, natural gas, phosphorous, coal and rare earth elements. At the rate we’re headed, life on earth could well be unsustainable and our precious resources may dry up.
Enter a relatively new concept—a circular economy that seeks to resolve the negative aspects of our wasteful and waste-producing ways with a framework described by the aforementioned Ellen MacArthur Foundation as being of “a restorative and regenerative design and aims to keep products, components at their highest utility and value at all times. It’s a model where all waste materials are either recycled back into use or are composted so they never reach a dumpsite.
Aiming to prove there’s no such thing as waste—just stuff in the wrong place—the Brighten Waste House illustrates that undervalued material has the potential to become a valuable resource.
Fabricated in the workshops of Great Britain’s City College at Brighten and Hove, the Waste House was assembled and completed by students and apprentices between May 2013 and April 2014. Materials that have gone into the house include old vinyl banners used as internal vapor control layers.
Thrown away bricks, ply sheets and off-cut timber from other construction projects as well as rubbish including old plastic razors, denim jeans, DVDs and videocassettes were slotted into wall cavities to help with the house’s insulation.
Ten tons of chalk waste and 10% of clay created a rammed chalk wall with help from a compressor and pneumatic rammer, contributing to the overall energy efficiency of the building.
The Waste House as eco-architecture is just one instance of the benefits of sustainable living. Finding ways to build and live as a circular economy is stacking up as a worldwide social imperative. In the future—which is now—what comes around should as often as possible—go around to become a useful something else.
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