Living in harmony with nature 9: Recycled house II


Recycle or reuse?

One option is to just reuse the material, without the need for industrial modification. People who build from demolition bricks and use old wood or refurbished windows can be seen as poor people who have no choice, as weirdos… Or as those who save the material and energy needed to transform it. It always depends on the angle of view…

They set out on this journey, for example, in the Japanese city of Kamikatsu on the island of Shikoku, where they sort up to 80 % waste (and strive for 100% sorting in the future). Architects from Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP designed the house, which is built from used windows and planks, interior equipment from old paper, iron, bottles and other materials collected by the local community. Residents do not allow their Kamikatz Public House, which also has a shop and a small brewery.

If you prefer organic buildings, you may be inspired by the work of the American Michael Reynolds, nicknamed the "waste architect", who forms walls of old tires or glass or plastic bottles and canisters filled with earth. It combines these houses with solar panels, greenhouses, wind turbines and recycling stations and makes them truly low-cost and self-sufficient housing. Its concept is known as "earthship".

It is certainly an interesting and very cheap house, even in terms of later expenses for living in it. However, due to the materials used and the possible release of various substances from them, it cannot offer the qualities of a house made of natural materials, where we are assured of a non-toxic, healthy environment. I do not want to crash projects that process overpopulated waste. In addition, I must admit that Reynolds' ships have a special charm. I just want to emphasize that they cannot be classified as natural houses, although they are often included.

But let's go back to the concepts that are applicable (and often actually used) in our conditions. Personally, I'm a big fan of using old fired and unfired bricks. It is clear that only those in good condition must be sorted and used, but there can be at least half of them from one wrecker. Half of the material that no one will have to export to a landfill or look for ways to use it again (which is not very convenient - old clean concrete into new concrete, old bricks are clay, the rest is crushed and the mixture is loaded into any hole).

After all, we can also pour old clean and non-fragile concrete into new concrete on our construction site. Brick crumb can be used to dump roads. But mainly whole bricks - the beautiful, old, bell-fired bricks are often in better condition than the ones we buy expensively in building materials. We can easily use them for the construction of new walls, for example in farm buildings, sheds, but also in houses. The favorites are internal "admitted", ie unplastered partitions (replacing them with purchased tiles that are supposed to imitate bricks, I find it sad), in which the bricks are folded so that the marks that were once burned into them can be seen. History breathes from such bricks. Your house will not only be beautiful and natural, but also with a very minimal carbon footprint.

It is also possible to use unfired bricks - somewhere they are called anchors, somewhere pigskin. If they are in order, we can easily build a new solid wall from them even after a hundred years. If we are not attracted to building walls, we can recycle them, for example, by using them in the production of clay plasters, or by throwing them on flower beds, where they will create a layer of very fertile soil - they probably contain cow manure.


Old tiles, tiles and sometimes even a broken porcelain cup were imaginatively used in natural buildings. Skillful craftsmen make mosaics from their fragments, which are placed in bathrooms and kitchens, ie where we need a waterproof surface.


  • Do not recycle material, but the house


Lastly, I would like to mention the completely opposite view of recycling in construction: instead of building new houses from old or recycled materials, it is possible to use (recycle or rebuild) an old house that might otherwise be in danger of being demolished. It's about the same concept as second-hand shopping instead of having new clothes sewn. Or they bought new ones from recycled material.

I also originally burned with a desire for a beautiful new straw hat. But in the end, I found that there were a lot of old houses in the area I was looking for. The houses, which are just waiting for someone to take them, will be torn away by a layer of cement plaster from the last decades, which did not allow them to breathe, and their original clay hearts will be restored.

And because there are so many of them and not every owner has the same plans with them as I do, I have no shortage of fired and unfired bricks from the immediate area. Of course, I have to replace part of the wooden boards and beams with new ones, strengthen or restore part of the foundations, have new windows made and a lot of other things. But as I wrote: I will rebuild most of the bricks from my own and the neighboring walls into the new walls. From a part of unfired bricks, which could not be preserved in its entirety, I will make clay plasters, to which I will also add the hay found in the soil. And I'll put a renovated sideboard in my room with my grandmother…

How specifically we recycle is up to each of us. We can build the whole house from recycled materials, combine "raw" natural materials (wood, clay, straw) with natural recycled ones (wood fiber, cellulose, foam glass) and add pieces of tiles, glass bottles or other inert material. We can take a step aside and minimize our carbon footprint by using recycled waste. Or bring back to life what is offered here in our country (especially in the countryside), namely old houses or at least material from them.

Our common mother, nature, will thank us a lot for recycling in any form (and if not herself, then our own children will do it for her in the near future).

In the Japanese city of Kamikatsu on the island of Shikoku, they sort up to 80 % waste (and in the future they strive for 100% sorting)

How specifically we recycle is up to each of us

Phoenix Eartship Bathroom (architect M. Reynolds) (source:, author: Kyle Greenberg)