Monday, March 30, 2009

Using 3 Recyclable Building Materials is Kid's Play

When I was a little boy, I used to love building things out of cardboard. Whenever I found a refrigerator box, it was as if nothing could be better.

While in architecture school, my design class was assigned to design and build our own bridge that could only support our own weight. If it was overdesigned for a load heavier than us, we would get docked a letter grade. If the bridge failed under our own weight, well, we would fail. I think that the bridge assignment was one of my favorite projects because of its narrow requirements. My bridge did well, so I passed with a high grade.

Another design/build project that I have done out of paper was a piece of furniture. I designed a chair that looked like the profile of a hand that has the thumb extended. The seat would be where the thumb is and the back of the seat would be where the index finger would be.

About this time, last year, there was an article posted on the web about a Cardboard House of the Future. Check it out at

My radio show that is aired today covers this article in depth. I also discuss the article in the latest March LAD Sketch Pad newsletter about houses built of straw. Download your free copy from

There are a lot of other materials that can be used to build houses that are recycled. The metal shipping containers that you might see stacked all around shipping ports like Newark are among architects' favorite building blocks.

Metal shipping containers have been used to build houses, youth centers, schools, multi-family complexes, swimming pools, and offices. They can be put together in just a few days and don’t usually cost very much.

Check out this web site for some photos of buildings built out of metal shipping containers

With the economy in the tank, the idea of saving money on our construction and operational costs is more attractive than ever. Sometimes, we need to get back to the basics and get excited about the possibilities of building things out of materials that might have caught your eye as a kid.