She’s a Book—House…

She’s a book—-house…
The lady’s stacked and that’s a fact,
ain’t holding nothing back.

…Actually, she is holding something back–or up, rather.

amb ph outside

Who needs a brick house when we could have a book house?  Richard Kroeker along with students from the Dalhousie University Department of Architecture designed and built a home that uniquely uses phone books as a primary structural and insulating material for their project titled: The Ambient Material.


Books serve as the prime building materials for this structure but more specifically, the books were derived from the waste that comes to doors across America: the phone book. The Product Stewardship Council notes that every year there is over 650,000 tons of phone books delivered to doors across America–1/3 of them are recycled and more than 410,000 tons become physical waste for incinerators or landfills. The taxpayers cost of managing this waste: $60 million dollars per year.[i] Not only does this waste cost taxpayers but it also contributes to the depletion of natural resources and pollution in the form of greenhouse gasses emitted from production, transportation, distribution, and recycling.

Using phone books as insulation is something that is not too far off from some conventional and sustainable insulation such as recycled paper cellulose insulation made from recycled news paper. This material is known to be up to 38% more energy efficient than fiberglass insulation, reducing utility costs by 20-50%.[ii] Therefore, using phone books in this way could have similar effects on the space.

amb ph ce
Not only do the phonebooks serve as insulation but they are also tensioned and held in place with sheet metal angles that help to create stability and structure. The phonebooks, when tensioned, are stacked, framed with the metal sheet angles and screwed which creates enough rigidity to frame and support the rest of the structure. The roof joists are also made through lamination of several phonebooks, framed out with metal sheet angles lateral timber supports.
amb ph enrance
This project, The Ambient Material, is an excellent example of utilizing a product that is no longer necessary in this technological age and making it useful without having to reinvest energy in recycling, reforming, or remanufacturing–saving embodied energy, time and resources.
amb phone wall

[i] “Product Stewardship Institute.” Product Stewardship Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. <;.

[ii] “5 Types of Green Insulation That Reduce Utility Costs and Are Gentler for the Planet |” Home Energy Audits & Installation | N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. <;.


One response to “She’s a Book—House…

  1. This is a cool concept, but I wonder if it is rethinking the use of material or whether it is just replacing brick with a book. If the latter is the case, then I wonder how the R-Value is contributing to the function of the house. I feel like there is more that could be exploited about using a book in a design. If you could interact with the facade or rip out pages to change the interior decor. Cool precedent! I wonder where the students would have taken it if they could do it again!

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