So in the last post we just rolled over a few of the lighter applications of tires in architecture, mostly because true sustainability is terrifying and you’re not ready for it. I know you want to live sustainably, but actual sustainability is such a far cry from current practices that I didn’t want to you jump in the deep-end head-first and drown. I just wanted to scare you a bit by dunking your head underwater, and then letting you come up for air so you can appreciate how nice it is to breathe. It was a bit like water-boarding I guess. Sorry.
Reading this post could probably be compared to a form of torture as well, but at least without the dramatization.
We’ve already established that tires are plentiful, will continue to be plentiful, and as of right now are almost entirely useless after fulfilling their initial mission. That rubber sink is awesome, but at the rate it was reusing material we’d have to put a rubber sink in every American home to even put a dent in the worlds stockpile. To top it off, the tires still required some significant processing to get to the point of re-usability.
The good news is that there is potential to use tires architecturally in much greater quantity, and with significantly less processing.
There is a downside though, which I think can be explained via this quaint analogy: I once asked a knowledgeable source what squirrel tasted like (I guess you could say I was raised in a rural area), and his response was, “It tastes like chicken, but the more you chew it, the more it tastes like squirrel.”
What I’m saying is, when using tires in architectural applications, it’s generally like using any other rubber, but the less you process it, the more it looks like a tire. There may not be anything wrong with that, but it certainly is a distinct flavor.
What I’d like to suggest is that we learn to include the tire “flavor” into our architectural diet. It may enter begrudgingly at first, but with time we will learn how to mask the gamey taste, and develop recipes that truly honor the ingredient for what it has to offer. (I am metaphorically on fire with metaphors today.)
The people who have been working with this material for a while, and are really starting to develop palatable recipes, are the folks who have formed a community around buildings they affectionately call “Earthships”. Earthships are structures that have been taking sustainability to truly effective lengths for decades. They use an incredible amount of recycled material, and draw most of their energy needs from renewable sources on site. Aesthetics are not their first priority, and as such, their image speaks loudly about their materiality and method of construction, rather than attempting to conform to traditional aesthetics.
Okay, most of their examples are a bit “rustic”, you could say. But other examples may not even be recognizable as tire homes. Take for example this passive solar tire house, constructed with earthship principles:
Aside from some questionable choices in decor, this house is actually quite palatable. And because it draws energy from the environment, and was constructed largely out of materials that would otherwise be garbage, it actually a carbon negative building.
One more anecdote before I go: every technology goes through an ugly-duckling/awkward teenager phase. Remember cell-phones circa 1995? Hilariously ugly:
so why should we expect tire homes to be any better looking? As the technology is adapted, and more resources are devoted to the method of construction, the more refined the product will become. So why don’t we start working on this now, so that by the time I’m ready to invest I won’t feel like I’m living with the flintstones.