A few months ago I wrote a piece about an organization, Long Way Home, that is building a school in Guatemala made out of tires, plastic bottles and dirt. This is a great project that involves the local community, local building materials an enthusiastic group of volunteers. Elizabeth Rose is the president of the Board of Directors of Long Way Home and she has decided to use the same techniques to build her garage. Her mission is to build the first tire and dirt building in Massachusetts.
The theory behind using tires and dirt is based on architect Michael Reynolds’ philosophy of using local, indigenous materials that are plentiful, easy to use and involve more labour than energy consumption. Elizabeth covers more of his reasoning and her goals of sticking to his philosophy in her own structure on her blog.
Tires and dirt, if used properly, can provide a thermal mass that can measure up to R50. It would depend on the diameter of the tire, as well as the type of dirt used and how compacted the fill was, but here in Ontario an insulation value of R50 is over twice as much as standard building code requires! Pretty amazing. The corollary of that is that you have to have the space to build a structure like this because these walls are thick! As thick as the diameter of the tires plus the interior and exterior finished coat.
Elizabeth has started a blog that keeps track of the progress of building this garage. It’s always a challenge being a pioneer in any field, and using worn out tires and dirt is no exception. So far there have been a few errors in tire measurement and dirt selection, but what’s interesting is to read is how Elizabeth resolves mistakes, tracks down suppliers and how her architect, builder and soil engineer decide what kind of dirt will work for filling the tires. Elizabeth has discovered a few things on her journey to build a unique, “green” garage, such as:
- there is only one tire recycler in Massachusetts, JP Routhier and Sons in Littleton, MA.
- a supposedly “environmentally friendly” aggregrate (dirt and stone quarry) company, Aggregate Industries, with more than just a little dirt under its proverbial carpet (including a $2.75 million fine from the EPA for improper storm water management) and,
- how physically exhausting, but rewarding, it can be to build your own rammed earth building.
You can follow Elizabeth’s progress on her garage at her blog: http://lizyrose.wordpress.com/
For more information on Michael Reynolds’ company, see http://earthship.com/
Feature Photo by: Biodiesel33 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] This is an example of a completed Earthship – not Elizabeth Rose’s garage.