Tires, Bottles and Cans, Oh My! (Part 3: Construction and Completion)
July 26, 2011
Blogging about the Garbage Garage has connected us with amazing eco-enthusiasts around the world. Thank you for all the interest and comments. This blog (the final on this project) will focus on the garage’s construction, the best part! See previous posts for information on Project Genesis and Design, Permitting and Preparation for Construction.
The Long Way Home crew (Liz and Adam Howland, Erica Temple and Aaron Colvin) came from Guatemala to install the rammed-earth tire walls. Once permits were in hand, The Riverview Company coordinated the foundation work, including the rebar that anchored the foundation to the tire walls (and reassured the building inspector). I tried to prepare for the crew’s arrival by ordering the soil that would be used to fill the tires. My extensive research and questioning of experts was not helpful, and the soil ended up being far too sandy for the required use. Quote from Adam from Long Way Home “That’s not dirt.” Drat.
So, once the crew arrived, they had the cumbersome task of finding soil that would compact well in the tires. The selected soil ended up being a mix of sand and clay. At this point, the comparisons with construction in the US and Guatemala began. In Guatemala, there was is no special search for soil – they use what is there. Fortunately, we were able to use the sand later in the project as a base for the slab and the pavers.
Elizabeth (the owner) supplied the tires. The selection of the tires was crucial for this project since the finished exterior wall needed to be vertical and would have a stucco finish. We couldn’t have various thicknesses and widths of tires as can be used in the Guatemalan projects, where the final buildings are more organic and rough in finish. It turned out that there was some variance in the tires, but the LWH crew was expert at sorting and placing the tires accordingly.
Volunteers helping with the tire-pounding
Liz and Erica getting the dirt ready
As part of the permit approvals, we were required to have the compaction of the soil tested during construction. The compaction consistently met and exceeded all requirements. (More Guatemala comparisons…compaction testing?!)
Brett Belisle from Riverview working on the roof
Detail of the interior
Adam from the Long Way Home came back to install the glass bottles in the upper gable, and also installed some back-lighting behind the bottle wall to light the gable at night. The glass bottles were a challenge – we all love the idea of brightly colored bottles, but we had trouble finding bottles outside of clear, brown and green. There is a certain bright blue vodka bottle that we couldn’t get enough of…LWH did have a volunteer party, where everyone could get a chance to pound tires and to donate some bottles. I gave tire-pounding a try that day, for about a minute. Erica and Liz are now my new heroes.
Adam working on the bottle wall
Interior at the bottle wall
A recap of the project:
The genesis of this project was my client, Elizabeth Rose, who is president of Long Way Home, a community-based, nonprofit organization in Guatemala that is building homes and schools using these construction methods. In Guatemala, these construction types are a perfect solution for very poor residents who need shelter and community buildings. In addition to the benefits noted above, building with tires, cans and bottles is cheap; the materials are virtually free, labor costs are low, and the building techniques are easily taught to otherwise unskilled laborers.
Elizabeth saw her family’s need for a garage as an opportunity to showcase alternative environmentally sustainable building practices and to help potential supporters understand the important work that Long Way Home is doing.
We are grateful to our amazing clients (Elizabeth and her husband Joe) for the opportunity to be involved in such an interesting and important project. We appreciate their tenacity in getting the project done and their amazing outlook even during the biggest challenges we encountered.
Let us know if you have any questions about the Garbage Garage. We had such fun being a part of the project and hope that it will stand as a demonstration of creative approaches to construction that are sensitive to the needs of communities.
With best wishes,
Juli MacDonald, GreenBridge Architects