You Say Old Tires, I Say Green Housing

An activist in Colombia is recycling trash into green housing.

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In the highlands around the capital of Colombia one can find small buildings scattered around looking something like igloos.  It turns out that they are actually houses made from tires which were littering the country’s roads.  Behind the project is an environmental activist, Alexandra Posada in a cowboy hat and work jeans.  “I get these tires for free because it’s a huge problem for people to get rid of them,” she says.

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“They take thousands of years to decompose—which we’ve transformed from a problem into an opportunity.  If you use them as construction materials, they become virtually eternal bricks.”

Her team takes truckloads of tires and turns them into massive bricks weighing 200 – 300 kilograms each.  The tires are from cars and even semi trucks, stacked together around iron bars to create round buildings.  These structures are solid but flexible, able to withstand earthquakes which are common in the Andes region.  They are also well insulated against the heat and cold.

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These homes have rounded ceilings of cement and steel covering the bedrooms and kitchen, while flat wooden plank ceilings are over the living and dining rooms.  A layer of tires cover them, creating a nearly non-degradable, impermeable roof.  The saying of ‘one man’s garbage…‘ comes to mind when looking at the captivating beauty of these houses.

The roofs are usually painted with bright colors.  Walls are covered in tan mortar made from lime and sand, which makes them look smooth while flashes of color come from old glass bottles enveloped in the masonry.  They also use glass bottles to make skylights in the bedrooms, in a sort of pixel-like stained-glass.  “These houses are made with reused materials, but they’re also beautiful, airy, with more indirect light,” she said.

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