THE RUBBER HOUSE
Eco-friendly home built out of car tyres and beer cans for only £12,000 - and it costs nothing to run
by Peter Doyle
The Scottish Daily Mail
Monday, August 30, 2004, p. 25.
Built using car tyes and beer cans instead of bricks and mortar, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'household waste'.
But the creators of Scotland's most unusual home say it is the way of the future - and could even end the misery of soaring water and power bills.
Now Scots will have a chance to judge for themselves as the Fife Earthship opens its environmentally-friendly doors to the public for the first time
For two years, volunteers have spent weekends packing earth into worn tyres to create the Earthship - so called because it is designed to be as self-sufficient as an ocean-going liner.
Built into the hillside on the banks of Kinghorn Loch, near Burntisland in Fife, the single-storey, one-room building is powered by an array of solar panels and wind turbines.
Rainwater gathers on the roof to provide a drinking supply and maintain the sewage system, while fruit and vegetables grow behind the large windows.
The house is the first of its kind in Europe. More than 900 used car tyres were filled with earth before being packed into layers, forming a three-sided hollow 'hill'.
Gaps were sealed using a concrete mix containing thousands of beer cans and bottles to create an almost indestructible dwelling.
Built for only £12,000 by the charity Sustainable Communities Initiatives (SCI), the property has been built as a show house in the hope that those who visit it will opt to build their own recycled home.
Project leader Paula Crowe said SCI hopes to create communities of Earthships across Scotland, in a move that could provide an answer to the affrodable housing crisis in rural areas - as well as preserving the landscape.
She added: 'It was cheap to build, it is self-reliant and there are no expensive fuel or water bills.
'Earthships offer people the opportunity to build their own homes and make a conscious decision to live lightly on the Earth. It is a very empowreing house.'
SCI believes similar houses could save the UK from a potential ecological timebomb when forthcoming European legislation renders it illegal to dispose of used car tyres in landfills.
Miss Cowie said: 'Each year, more than 40million tyres in Britain are thrown into landfills.
'An Earthship uses up to 3,000 tyres and could provide a solution to the problem of how best to dispose of them.'
The Fife Earthsip is based on a design by American eco-activist Michael Reynolds.
He plans to build a Greater World Community in New Mexico, composed entirely of the self-sufficient homes.
Miss Cowie would like to set up a similar community in Scotland and claims SCI is in discussions with several local councils.
But she warned that anyone keen on the idea of living in an Earthship should prepare themselves for plenty of hard work.
She said: 'SCI will help anyone who wants to build their own. The Fife Earthship took more than two years to build, but that was because we relied on volunteers who could only work weekends.
'Building one is hard work and anyone who wants to live in one should be prepared to build it themselves. But the skills are not hard to learn.
'We expect the sort of people who will be interested in this type of project will be prepared to work hard. I even hope to build an Earthship for myself.'