Waste Not - The Brighton Waste House

Waste is a serious problem in the construction industry. Defra figures show that, in 2016, 63% of all waste generated in the UK came from construction related activities. A rather scary 120 million tonnes of waste is estimated to have been created by construction in just one year in the UK alone. Clearly, this is bad. As such, the University of Brighton wanted to address this issue by conducting an experiment creating a usable building out of nearly all waste materials. They succeeded and the building they created was the Brighton Waste House and it taught them a great deal about how waste material can be used.

The Idea

Based on the concept that there is no such thing as waste, only stuff in the wrong place, the Brighton Waste House is made of 85% reused waste material. It has an EPC ‘A’ rating as a low energy building and was created with the help of Freegle founder, Cat Fletcher. Not only was this building designed to demonstrate how waste can be reused, it was intended as an educational opportunity to allow students and apprentices to work on something unique. Over 300 students worked on the project with 750 school children visiting the site while construction was taking place. While students learned skills and ideas in sustainable construction, the university learned about which materials could be used and what their properties in terms of strength, insultation etc. were.

Innovative Building Materials

It isn’t just waste construction materials they used in the Waste House. They filled cavity walls with the cut off legs of jeans discarded by a company which made denim shorts out of old pairs of jeans. Another wall was filled with toothbrushes which had only been used once by first and business class passengers flying from Gatwick airport. DVDs and video cassettes filled yet another wall. How well each work as an insulator is something the students have been monitoring. One very good insulator they used was rammed earth. Taking 10 tonnes of waste chalk from a building project and compressing it using a pneumatic rammer created a very energy efficient material to make a wall out of. Rammed earth is an ideal material for storing up passive solar energy and the heat generated by occupants of the building as warmth can take up to 12 hours to pass through a 35cm thick wall of it. To create a weather proof cladding for the house, students decided to use old carpet tiles turned back to front so their waterproof base was on the outside.

A Functional Building

The Brighton Waste House wasn’t intended to be a temporary project for students to experiment with, however. It is the first permanent building made of waste material in the UK. Students studying for an MA in sustainable design use the building to study in. It also functions as a kind of living evolving project for the students to study. School children visit it for workshops etc. and it is available to use for events and as a shared creative space.

While Marc is not a whizz at repurposing waste like Cat Fletcher is, he is very good at managing projects to waste as little material, time and resources as possible. He can also talk to you about the materials used in building your house or one you’re thinking of building to make sure you treat it appropriately or aren’t going to come across anything surprising (but it probably won’t be made of used toothbrushes!). Give Marc a call on 01273 281624 or email info@tatesurveyingservices.co.uk.

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