In a small town in Far West Texas, Clyde Curry has been busy refining and perfecting his papercrete mixture. Papercrete is mostly recycled paper and his new formula even gives an afterlife to styrofoam as well. Clyde mixes this waste into paste and then makes bricks. Lots of them! What looks like large, heavy concrete bricks are actually light and slightly spongy, but also ultra strong, fire resistant, and highly insulative. Clyde then stacks the bricks into non-traditional shapes until…POOF! He has a Palace unlike no other.
It sounds like magic, which is appropriate, because the Bed And Breakfast he and his wife Kate have built from the ground up…paper… is a magical place.
What could have been the contents of a landfill, is now Eve’s Garden.
Read on for an exclusive interview with Clyde Curry:
TH: Papercrete is a relatively new building material. What are the short-term/long term advantages and disadvantages of Papercrete?
CC: Cellulose composite materials have been in use for 1000's of years. Excess agriculture fiber has been incorporated into various arrangements with Lime, Gypsum, Adobe , Caliche, Coral etc. So what is new about Papercrete or FRLC (Fiber Reinforced Lightweight Concrete) ? What is new is adding such a large percentage of fiber in the mix, so as to create an abundance of air pockets for insulation. This is accomplished by first combining paper fiber with water to form a pulp, then adding the pulp to a binder material. Upon drying, the water evaporates, leaving many small air pockets. The advantages of FRLC are that it is lightweight, highly insulating, and reasonably priced. Other positive attributes: longevity, made with local labor and materials, structural, and it lowers the burden on the waste handling facilities.
TH: When we spoke, you mentioned that papercrete can be used as a mortar to encase all kinds of landfill waste, including plastic bottles. Even though this inside filler material is not seen in the finished structure, do you think that there may be a stigma for some people about living among theirs or someone else’s trash? Are there any finished examples of this that you can point to?
CC: Is there a stigma attached to reuse of plastic PET containers, paint cans etc. as a honeycomb core for composite wall sections? I have not been one to wait for approval of alternate ideas. Such ideas will become real for people only when they can experience them well done. This is why we have put together evesgarden.org, so that we can showcase more common sense approaches to the built environment. Temasblog has an example of bottle wall construction.
TH: What kinds of waste material would you not use to build with? What waste materials may be toxic to the resident over the long term?
CC: One might use caution and remove food scraps from reusable materials before building them into a wall. Oil, grease, wax, acids and caustics all might cause problems with FRLC. Fly ash from coal stacks is to avoided.
TH: Does papercrete meet city code? Do you know of any places where papercrete is not accepted?
CC: FRLC has been classified in the Building Codes where as Papercrete has not. The way we make papercrete at evesgarden.org, it actually is Fiber Reinforced Lightweight Concrete.
TH: How does papercrete ‘stack up’ compared to adobe or concrete bricks?
CC: FRLC is an astoundingly versatile material. It is strong, insulating, easy to construct with. It can be used in conjuntion with Adobe block, yet it is less than 1/4 the weight.
TH: Do you have any projects or planned projects in other locations? Or do you concentrate solely on Eve’s Garden?
CC: Evesgarden.org has been 8 years in the making. It has been illuminating as to what it takes to work with the public. All that we do is in preparation for our wish to build a world class Eco-Village Hotel for 500 villagers
TH: What do you see for the future of papercrete? Do you think that it will make its way into the mainstream? Or do you think it will it remain a building material used primarily within the resourceful and creative communities?
CC: Milliions of feet of FRLC are applied to roofs every year, saving great amounts of energy. Paper fiber addition to FRLC allows one to double the energy savings. I would say that papercrete has an interesting future.
Visit evesgarden.org for in depth DIY papercrete instructions, more pictures, info on rooms and rates at Eve's Garden, and a fortune of links to the fast growing papercrete community.