Houses Made of Recycled Materials

Frustrated with the existing home construction system, New Mexico architect Mike Reynolds decided to specialize in houses made of recycled materials.

| March/April 1979

  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 1 construction site.jpg
    An aerial view shows the west side of the building. INSET: New Mexico architect Mike Reynolds.
    PHOTO: STEVE WINSTON/MIKE REYNOLDS
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 0 architect.jpg
    Mike Reynolds supervising the construction site.
    STEVE WINSTON
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 2 building wall.jpg
    Gobel’s house is being constructed of double layers of aluminum cans.
    STEVE WINSTON
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 5 gobel construction.jpg
    The Gobel construction has already made use of some 125,000 containers.
    MIKE REYNOLDS
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 7 exterior.jpg
    Two large solar collectors serve as the primary heating system.
    STEVE WINSTON
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 3 mixing mortar.jpg
    The lightweight containers involved in can construction lend themselves to easy working. 
    STEVE WINSTON
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 4 interior wall.jpg
    Reynolds builds walls of bottles and cans with bottoms exposed for a decorative effect. 
    STEVE WINSTON
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 6 fireplace.jpg
    A unique fireplace provides backup heating.
    STEVE WINSTON

  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 1 construction site.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 0 architect.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 2 building wall.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 5 gobel construction.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 7 exterior.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 3 mixing mortar.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 4 interior wall.jpg
  • 056 houses made of recycled materials 6 fireplace.jpg

New Mexico architect Mike Reynolds specializes in the design of energy-efficient (and beautiful!) houses made of recycled materials—specifically, aluminum cans and rubber tires.

The young Kentucky-born designer/builder began his architectural career in 1970. Mike, however, felt "unfulfilled" by his lack of contact with the traditional buildings he was asked to design. Moreover, he grew disenchanted with the all too common web of energy dependence, unfair financing, and inefficient materials which went hand in hand with home construction and had caused housing costs to skyrocket.

"The architect alone will charge as much as 10% of the market price of a home, which is why most Americans settle for mass-produced, crackerbox-style houses," Mike says. "Then, it costs $10,000 to buy a lot in the Taos area, and another $1,000 to get power to the house. So, a person is out at least $15,000 before he or she can even think about the house itself!"

Reynolds set out to beat this system. But when he decided to begin by designing houses built from refuse, he suddenly found himself in the building business as well. "In 1974 when I designed my first 'can house', I couldn't find anyone to build it," Mike recalls. "So I formed my own construction company, and, since then, I've built every one of the houses I've designed."



Worldwide Interest

To date, Mike's company (World Energy and Materials) has constructed 25 homes in the Taos area. Furthermore—although he has used adobe and conventional materials—Reynolds prefers to build with cans and tires. What he does with this litter has earned him international fame.

This innovative architect has been featured in a German television special, and models of his houses were included in an exhibit of American architecture that toured France two years ago.

margaux mcgartland_2
11/18/2008 8:54:50 AM

i bought a first earthship book over a year ago. i was so impressed with a common sense of it, i recently ordered the other 2 book. i am gathering the used supplies and saving up for land. i was looking at plans for years. this won me over.


Christina_11
7/3/2007 11:49:39 PM

Looking to build a home that's affordable. West Texas desert. Currently living in a metal box(mobile Home) that is paid for but falling apart.







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