Gone to waste: Britain’s first house of rubbish opens its recycled doors (and windows) at Brighton University

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  • A permanent building built almost entirely of rubbish by students at Brighton University opened to the public this month

    Back in 2012 Brighton lecturer and architect Duncan Baker-Brown had an idea to create a collaborative eco-build project in the grounds of Brighton University’s Faculty of Arts.

    Taking inspiration from a project he had previously worked on with TV designer and presenter Kevin McCloud, plans were drawn up to build the country’s first ever live-able waste house made almost entirely from recycled and unwanted products and materials. Earlier this month The Brighton Waste House opened its doors.

    To the untrained eye the house looks pretty ordinary, but its components are anything but.
    They include 19,800 old toothbrushes, two tonnes of denim jeans, 4,000 video cassettes and 2,000 used carpet tiles.

    The aim of the pioneering scheme is to show how low carbon homes can be built cheaply and quickly using waste including surplus material from building sites – the construction industry discards 20% of everything it uses, the equivalent of scrapping one in five houses built.

    A team of 253 students and apprentices led by architects BBM spent three months designing and another 12 building the house, with work completed in April this year.


    Backed by Brighton and Hove council, local school children, apprentice schemes and small businesses have all been heavily involved in the construction making it a positive community project.

    The house has provided hands-on educational resources, developing skills such as bricklaying, carpentry, electrical, plumbing and decorating.

    ‘The Waste House is a unique project that provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our apprentices to be at the forefront of sustainable development and will create a legacy for future generations,’ said David Pendegrass, Project Manager.

    Kevin McCloud, who is renowned for his involvement in unusual and elaborate architectural homebuilding, has of course got on board and endorsed the project.

    ‘I’m very pleased that the University of Brighton is committed to exploring new low-carbon methods of building,’ he said, ‘and delighted to be connected to the university through this innovative piece of construction.’

    So what is this unique second-hand home made of? The frame and floors are recycled wood, 4,000 VHS video tapes work as wall installation, while 500 bike inner tubes serve as window seals and soundproofing.

    Although the house is primarily made from recycling new materials have also been installed, such as high performance triple-glazed windows and high-performance skylights, allowing the house to double as a showcase for new technologies.

    It will continue to be used as a means for testing innovative construction materials and methods at the university.

    ‘Reusing waste saves money for big and small businesses and relieves pressures on our planet,’ says Duncan Baker-Brown. ‘There is no such thing as waste or surplus material and reusing it saves the environment by reducing the need to mine so much raw material in the first place.’

    The building has its own street entrance, putting the
    house at the heart of the Brighton and Hove community as it will serve
    as an exhibition space and design studio. It will be available to schools, colleges and community groups for green-themed
    events and workshops.

    So the next time you’re looking for insulation in your local DIY store, just think in a few years’ time you could be browsing other peoples old toothbrushes instead!

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