Papercrete is a fairly new ingredient in the natural building world. It is basically re-pulped paper fiber with portland cement or clay and/or other dirt added. When cement is added, this material is not as "green" as would be ideal, but the relatively small amount of cement is perhaps a reasonable tradeoff for what papercrete can offer. I have had a fair amount of experience with this stuff, and I would say that is has some remarkable properties. Care must be taken to utilize it properly, or you could be courting disaster. I am acquainted with both Eric Patterson and Mike McCain, who independently "invented" papercrete (they called it "padobe" and "fibrous cement") and they have both contributed considerably to the machinery to make it and the ways of using it for building.
The paper to be used can come from a variety of sources and is usually
free. I've used newspaper, junk mail, magazines, books, etc., which
I get from our local dump or from the waste bin at our post office.
Depending on the type of mixer that is used to make pulp out of it,
the paper might be soaked in water beforehand or not. My first mixer
used a small electric motor mounted directly to a shaft with a couple
of four inch square blades on it, rather like a milk shake maker. This
shaft was suspended in a plastic 55 gallon drum where the mixing took
place. After a year of making small batches with this, I graduated to
a "tow mixer" designed by Mike McCain. I consider this to
be the Cadillac of mixers because using it is so easy and fast.
Cured papercrete acts like a sponge unless it is coated with something to stop the entry of water. In my earthbag/papercrete house I have allowed the papercrete to breath fully, so that it absorbs an enormous amount of water when it rains. This is not a problem for me because there is nothing in the wall that would be damaged by water, even if it got past the papercrete layer, which it rarely or never does. It is a whole new concept for a roof: a sponge that welcomes the moisture, and then simply give it back to the atmosphere through evaporation. I have had large cracks (up to about 1/2 inch wide) in the initial layer of papercrete on the earthbags, and still have not seen any water getting through into the house.
Other properties of papercrete are:
Paper adobe is similar to papercrete, but instead of cement used to bind the paper fiber into a solid, clay is used as the binder. This can work well if the material is kept absolutely dry; otherwise it will become soft and could deform.
Building with Bags: How We Made Our Experimental Earthbag/Papercrete House 1 1/2 hr. DVD produced by Kelly Hart.We wanted to build an environmentally sensitive and aesthetically pleasing home at a moderate price. We chose to create earthbag domes covered with papercrete (recycled paper combined with cement and sand). This honest DVD documents details of the construction, insights gained, and the ups and downs (literally!) of the building process. Several other earthbag homes are also shown. For more information about the house see Photogallery & Description of Our House or Construction Details of Our House . To view a streaming video intoduction to this DVD click here.
Carriage House Kelly Hart, DesignerThis Carriage House was initially designed to create garage and shop space, as well as office and storage space for the designer's personal use. There is potentially about 900 s.f. of usable floor area on two stories. It is a hybrid design, utilizing earthbags plastered with papercrete, a steel prefabricated Quonset-style vault, concrete floor, and wood-framed end walls. Since the steel vault is completely covered with insulating earthbags, the building is very well insulated, and comfortable year-round. This concept could be converted to residential use, with the addition of kitchen and bathroom functions, and the steel interior finish could be covered with scored sheetrock, tongue & grooved wood, or even cloth. This is rather inexpensive way to create substantial shelter. This design is based on a fairly small (16' X 34') steel building, but these structures are available in a wide range of widths ( up to sizes fit for aircraft hangers), and the lengths can be indefinite, since it is just a matter of adding more arched sections to lengthen the building.
This cross section shows the hybrid nature of this design. In order to gain height, the steel shell is erected on top of an earthbag stem wall, and then the earthbags continue on up over the building. The double columns of the stem wall provides thermal mass on the inside and insulation on the outside. An insulated concrete pad is poured for the shop/garage floor. The second floor joists and tie beams are essential elements of the design, since they resist deformation of the vault from all of the weight on it.
For more information about this plan, and many others, visit our sister site www.dreamgreenhomes.com, where you will find a wide range of plans for sustainable homes, greenhouses, small buildings, garages, and food storage space for sale. Dream Green Homes is a consortium of outstanding architects and designers, who have pooled their talent and expertise for your benefit.
livinginpaper.com I heartily recommend this site compiled by video producer Barry Fuller; it outlines in great detail his research and thought about papercrete as a building material.
makepapercrete.com some good basic nformation about papercrete and how to make it and a tow mixer.
papercreters.blogspot.com is a blog devoted to all things papercrete.
evesgarden.org Eve's Garden Organic B&B and Ecology Resource Center has done some wonderful building with papercrete and has a page about papercrete as a resource.
Starshipenterprises Several pages about papercrete, with lots of good pictures, including a look at a large papercrete dome project with lots of slow-loading pictures, but worth the wait. A papercrete list forum is operated from here.
daycreek.com Alan Stankevitz is building a cordwood house, using papercrete as morter.
Paper Observatory Domes Early approach to creating lightweight domes.
youtube.com There are several short videos posted at Youtube on papercrete.
hybridadobe.com Philip Mirkin's site explains how he makes "hybrid adobe," a mix of papercrete and soil.
MasonGreenstar.com This Texas company is gearing up to manufacture commercial "blox" of papercrete.
groups.yahoo.com is a forum devoted to discussing papercrete.
mortarsprayer.com has a page about papercrete with several embedded videos and a photogallery.