Non-recyclable Cardboard Housing: The Next Strawbale?

Images: Auburn University Rural Studio

You've probably heard of strawbale construction -- but what about cardboard bale construction? We already know cardboard is pretty versatile and can be found anywhere from furniture, to ornaments, to mulch, to houses and earthquake resistant schools. But what can be done with non-recyclable waxed cardboard that usually ends up in some landfill? As a team of Auburn University students are showing in this experimental student housing project called Corucon, even the hard-to-recycle, waxed corrugated kind of cardboard can still be reclaimed and used instead as bales for building, much like strawbales.

It's important to note that while regular, unwaxed, cardboard -- made of two layers of cardboard with a crimped layer in between (ie. "corrugated fibreboard") -- can be recycled, the waxed corrugated fibreboard variety cannot. So there's a lot of promise in applications such as Corucon where one of the primary materials used is something non-recyclable.


The end result seems like a promising model of diverting so-called "waste" for construction purposes. Here, a foundation was made by burying bales wrapped in plastic into the ground and pouring concrete over them. The central module was created by stacking the cardboard bales up using a forklift and placing a ring beam of large timbers and an eight-inch bond beam on top, then finishing it off with a simple metal roof. All told, the structure has a high level of energy performance coupled with fire-resistance, similar to strawbale.

Auburn University Rural Studio via Inhabitat
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Tags: Green Building | United States | Universities