Sustainable Architecture

Think Small

Heat with the Sun

Keep your Cool

Use Renewable Energy

Conserve Water

Use Local Materials

Use Natural Materials

Save our Forests

Recycle Materials

Build to Last

Grow your Food

Store your Food

Share Facilities


It is satisfying, fun and economical to reuse old building materials. In our society there has been a stigma attached to "used" stuff. We value "new" above all else, or at least the advertising forces would have us believe that. Antiques, of course, have acquired their own cachet and their value is hyped, primarily because of rarity. It's that middle ground of stuff that isn't new and hasn't acquired the status of being "antique" that I would like to focus on here.

The local dump is a great place to look for such stuff because it is often perceived as valueless. Our local dump actually has an area set aside for potentially reusable items, and they encourage people to sort through it. We found our kitchen sink there, in perfectly good condition, except for a little chip in the corner that I covered with tile. The virtue of recycling used building materials lies in diminishing the need for industry to recreate it. All of the energy that is spent in manufacturing and transporting something can be saved. The raw materials that would be drawn from the earth can be saved. The need to cover the item in the local landfill can be saved.

The value of recycling building materials, or anything else for that matter, is that the cost is likely to be a fraction of the same thing in the "new" category. The savings can be substantial. Take the case of Lonny Roth's house that he is building in our neighborhood. It is a very nice looking house of about 1,200 square feet. Lonny tells me that about three quarters of all the materials used to build the house have been recycled. He estimates that the cost of the house when it is finished will be right around $20,000. About half of the materials for Lonny's house were pulled from dumpsters at construction sites. Much of the framing and sheathing materials were found this way. Also many of the doors, windows, sinks, plumbing parts and appliances were used.

Another approach to recycling is to take an existing container and incorporate it into the structure of the house. I've seen this done with water towers, wine vats, silos, cabooses and box cars. There are several houses in our area that have utilized railroad box cars very effectively. One of these has incorporated two refrigerated box cars lined up parallel to each other, with a room spanning the space in between them. Refrigerated box cars are nice in that they are already well insulated. One of the cars in Larry Johnson's house is earth bermed all the way to the top on the north side. The other one has a greenhouse attached to the south side. These box cars measure about fifty feet by ten feet, so they create about 500 square feet of living space each. With the additions to this space, Larry has about 2300 square feet all together.

In our earthbag house we used lots of old metal wagon wheels and culvert couplers to create circular supports for windows. We had to scrounge a bit for the wheels because they seem to be popular for yard ornaments. We also used a few truckloads of trash paper making the papercrete to cover the earthbags. The polypropylene bags themselves are recycled misprinted rice bags. Some of the lumber used to frame the solar roof was salvaged from a local barn.

There is a good chance that old wood (if it has been kept dry) is better that what can be purchased as new lumber. This is true for two reasons. First, it has had a chance to cure; new lumber is often green lumber. Secondly, the trees that supplied the lumber in the first place were likely larger in girth, and therefore the wood has fewer knots and is less likely to twist and warp.

Many localities have places that collect and resell recycled building materials. They might accept and sell such materials as wood, flooring, doors, windows, electrical supplies, ducting, hardware, plumbing, insulation, cabinets, fencing and landscaping. So I suggest that before you go off to the store to buy something new for your house, you might check the used section of the classified ads, second hand stores, salvage yards, the dump, or your neighbor's garage sale. Rather than stimulate more industrial activity, why not utilize something that is looking for a home?




Recycled Houses

Building with Shipping Containers

Moving an Old Stone Building

Thermal Depolymerization Process

Building with Plastic Bottles:
Ubuntu Blox 1

Ubuntu Blox 2
Ubuntu Blox 3



with Bill Sitkin

Recycling in General
Deconstruction (and Reconstruction)
Recycling Old Wood
Recycling Bottles
Recycling Bricks
Recycling Tires

Recycling Shipping Containers























Remodel Green: Make Your House Serve Your Life, a Green Home Building Book by Kelly Hart, 2014. To renovate a home is one of the ultimate ways of recycling, taking an existing structure and using it as a basis for creating just what you need. Over the course of the author's life he has engaged in numerous remodeling projects, as a professional carpenter, as a home owner, and as a renter. He draws on this experience as he explores with you what he considers to be the main principles that should guide you in your choices for your own green remodeling project.

The chapters include fitting your house to your needs, the basics of passive solar design, tips on keeping your house cool, options to power your house with renewable energy, ways to conserve water, employing local, natural and recycled materials, the value of cultivating vegetables, how to naturally store the produce that you grow, and why to consider sharing some facilities with others for economy and sustainability.

Click on image to buy from CreateSpace.com

Rolling Shelter: Vehicles We Have Called Home Are you interested in RV living? Rolling Shelter is a personal account of Kelly and Rosana Hart's life in two different buses, three vans, two small motor homes, two travel trailers combined into one house, and two cars. Kelly tells stories about how they spent time exploring the western United States, Mexico and Guatemala, all the while living in various RV's. This book will inspire you and give you some ideas for how you might take advantage of vehicles to provide shelter in your life. In full color, the book features over 200 photographs and 5 detailed floor plans. With descriptions of how the conversions were accomplished, it is valuable both as an overview of vehicular dwelling and as a construction manual for how you might convert your own.

DIY Project:
Shipping Container Homes:
30 Secret Tips How To Build Your Own Shipping Container Home!

by Tracy McIntyre, 2015

Click on image for more information

A Cost-Effective Durable Emergency Shelter Alternative:
Intermodal Steel Building Units

by Jennifer Gadarowski, 2013

Click on image for more information

Building and Renovating with Reclaimed Materials
by Wim Pauwels, 2013

Click on image for more information

Old Buildings, New Forms:
NewDirections in Architectural Transformations

by Francoise Bollack, 2013

Click on image for more information

The Greened House Effect: Renovating Your Home with a Deep Energy Retrofit
by Jeff Wilson, 2013

Read Kelly Hart's review

Click on image for more information

Michael Litchfield, 2012

Click on image for more information

Materials & Skills for Historic Building Conservation
by Michael Forsyth, 2012

Click on image for more information

Expanded Discussion:
of the Method for Converting Shipping Containers into a Habitable Steel Building

by Paul Sawyers, 2011

Click on image for more information
Click on image for more information
Click on image for more information

Green Restorations:
Sustainable Building
and Historic Homes

by Aaron Lubeck, 2010

Click on image for more information

Green Remodeling:
Down-to-Earth Solutions for Everyday Homes

by Barry Katz, 2010

Click on image for more information

Converting Old Buildings
Into New Homes

by Barry Davies, Nigel Begg, 2010

Click on image for more information

The Complete Idiot's Guide
to Green Building
and Remodeling

by John Barrows and Lisa Iannucci, 2009

Click on image for more information

Intermodal Shipping Container Small Steel Buildings
by Paul Sawyers, 2008

Click on image for more information

A Practical Guide to Creating an Energy Efficient Home

by Peter Smith, 2007

Click on image for more information

Timeless Renovations
by Wim Pauwels, 2007

Click on image for more information

Building With Reclaimed Materials
by Wim Pauwels, 2007

Click on image for more information

Green Building & Remodeling For Dummies
by Eric Corey Freed, 2007

Click on image for more information

Natural Remodeling
for the Not-So-Green House:
Bringing Your Home
into Harmony with Nature

by Carol Venolia , Kelly Lerner, 2006

Click on image for more information

Building Adaptation
by James Douglas, 2006

Click on image for more information

Affordable Home Design: Innovations and Renovations by Martha Torres, 2005

Click on image for more information

Green Remodeling:
Changing the World
One Room at a Time

by David Johnston & Kim Master, 2004

Click on image for more information

Renovating Old Houses:
Bringing New Life
to Vintage Homes

by George Nash, 2003

Click on image for more information

Reborn Buildings
by Carles Broto, 2002

Click on image for more information

Rural Studio:
Samuel Mockbee and
an Architecture of Decency

by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, 2002

Click on image for more information

Salvage Style
for Outdoor Living

by Moira Hankinson, Nicholas Hankinson, 2001

Click on image for more information

Eco Deco:
Chic Ecological Design
Using Recycled Materials

by Stewart Walton, 2000

Click on image for more information

Structural Renovation of Buildings: Methods, Details,
& Design Examples

by Alexander Newman, 2000

Click on image for more information

Recycled Spaces:
Converting Buildings
into Homes

by Vinny Lee, 2000

Click on image for more information

The Resourceful Renovator:
A Gallery of Ideas
for Reusing Building Materials

by Jennifer Corson, 2000

Click on image for more information

Old Wood/New Home
by Lawson Drinkard , Audrey Hall, 2000

Click on image for more information

Bus Conversion Magazine has been in existance for over 20 years. Each monthly issue has detailed "how-to" articles related to converting buses into motor homes. There are also articles about the safe use and maintenance of buses, as well as tips for buying, selling and traveling in them. And there is a classified section for finding buses and bus conversion parts. You can receive a $5.00 discount on a subscription if you use this promo code: ghb5off.


Packaged Earthship
Michael Reynolds, Designer

This 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1118 sf Packaged Earthship design demonstrates passive solar heating, solar energy collection through photovoltaics, water catchment, and sewage treatment. The width of each room is flexible, as is the length of the entire shell. Each Earthship includes an interior planter which allows the resident to use fresh water at sinks and shower, send it through the interior grey water planter to feed the plants which in turn clean the grey water as well as produce oxygen, flowers and sometimes food, then the remaining water can be used to flush the toilet. The black water from the toilet is sent outside to a conventional septic tank and then into a contained drainfield where the moisture provides landscaping. The load bearing walls in the home have been built by ramming earth into used automobile tires. Interior walls are built using recycled cans.

Floor Plan

Cross Section

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.



bmra.org The Building Materials Reuse Association is a North American non-profit organization.

grn.com global recylcling network with links.


habitat.org/env/restores Habitat for Humanity ReStores sell recycled building materials.

buildingresources.org Recycled building resources in the San Francisco Bay Area.

resource2k.org Recycled building resources in the Boulder, Colorado Area.

thereusepeople.org Buys and sells used building materials in Oakland, CA, Boulder, CO and Seattle,WA.

oldwoodworkshop.com sells reclaimed lumber and architectural features.

frtirerecycle.com this company sells huge bales of recycled tires that have been used for various building projects.

wholeloglumber.com sells a range of recycled wood flooring materials from North Carolina.

oldewoodltd.com features reclaimed wide plank flooring and antique hand-hewn timber.


recycle.net worldwide recycling directory.


nytimes.com an article, titled "This Old Recyclable House" weighs the pros and cons of the modern deconstuction industry.

TheBarnPages.com You can buy and sell used barns all over the U.S. from this site.

reuseconsulting.com is a blog-style site about the deconstruction industry.


staplescabinetmakers various pieces of furniture are made with lumber reclaimed from New England buildings.

retreadproducts.com manufactures "tire logs" from recycled tires that can be used for many building and landscaping projects.

earthstonetechnology.com takes recycled glass bottles and turns them into a variety of useful products.

viridianwood.com features a nice gallery of uses for reclaimed lumber, such as flooring, paneling, tables and counters.

AppliancePartsPros.com, Inc. carries thousands of parts for all sorts of appliannces and features part photos, diagrams, and live help.banner

theparkcatalog.com makes the case for why it is important to not recycle materials but to also purchase products made with recycled materials.


agilitynut.com has several links to some wonderful examples of bottle houses.

krepcio.com/vitreosity a pictorial presentation of many lovely and amazing bottle construction projects/art.

paperhouserockport.com describes an entire house made mostly of old newspapers, furniture and all.

bluecollarindustrialist.blogspot.com the story of how an old grain bin was recycled into a dwelling.

inspirationgreen.org has a wonderful collection of pictures of houses made from plastic bottles.

buildsimple.org describes how plastics and unwated agricultural waste can be baled for building walls.

ignitechannel.com an article about building with plastic bottle bricks.

trueactivist.com a nice article about how Nigerians are building homes with plasic bottles filled with earth.

purelivingforlife.com this blog is by a couple who are building an off-grid homestead, mostly from recycled materials.


sgblocks.com describes a system for reusing steel shipping containers to build residences up to several stories high.

cnn.com an article with embedded video and photos about shipping copntainer homes.


buildinggreen.com an article about the importance of retrofitting existing homes for energy effciency.


youtube.com this video shows how some plastic bottles were used to create a wall.

youtube.com video about using recycled pop bottles for daylighting.

Disclaimer Of Liability And Warranty
I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks, Inc.


Home       Site Map        STORE

For Email contact go to About Us
Established in 2001, GreenHomeBuilding.com is primarily a labor of love. Kelly, and the GreenHomeBuilding team of experts, have answered thousands of questions for readers over the years, and we continue to publish up-to-date information about increasingly important sustainable architecture. If you feel moved to assist us in this work, your kind donation would be much appreciated; this can be easily done through our PayPal account:
Custom Search


  [Solar Car]      [Earthbag Building]     [Dream Green Homes]
See Your Ad
in This Space!

Click Here
for More Information