“There’s no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place."It’s this line from a song by the Formidable Vegetable Sound System that Brighton University have tried to prove in the construction of the Brighton Waste House.
The Brighton Waste House is a practical investigation into the construction of a modern, low energy, permanent structure using 85% “waste” material. Started in 2012, it was an experiment, but it was also an exercise in the power of recycling and sustainable construction. Giving value back to the things we dispose of. Giving back their worth. Which we think is pretty beautiful.
“There’s no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place”
What we think makes this project even more meaningful is how relatable the materials the team used were. Toothbrushes, plastic razors, video cassettes and denim. Things that all of us have come into contact with. Possibly today. Possibly even within the last hour.
So, how did it work? How did we get from 2000 carpet tiles, to Europe’s first permanent building made almost entirely from recycled material?
As well as supporting the idea that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, the project set out to prove that sustainability was possible in construction. That it can be achieved by young people working together.
According to Brighton University, more than 300 students from City College Brighton and Hove and the Mears Group, were involved in the construction of the building. This was allowing students and apprentices the opportunity to practise what they had been learning on a live construction site. The site was also opened up to school children for visits during construction.
"The project set out to prove that sustainability was possible in construction."
Costing £140,000 to build, it is actually £6000 cheaper than the price of hiring a team to build your own, average sized house.
Duncan Baker-Brown, director of BBM Architects, designed the house along with a group of undergraduate students from Brighton University. Baker-Brown was clear from the start, that if this project was to work, they would go through all the appropriate bureaucracy associated with constructing a permanent building and obtaining unwanted materials. His vision was for a permanent project. That just because something is made from reused materials, it’s life isn’t cut short.
"Just because something is made from reused materials, it’s life isn’t cut short."
You can book tours of the house, hold events there as well as attend classes as part of the MA in Sustainable Design, taught at the university.
We love the idea of sustainable construction. Bricks that eat Co2, cement that supports plant life, recycled glass gravel. We love it all. But even we have been cynical about the idea of literal rubbish being used in this way. And yet, here it is, still standing, with an EPC low energy rating of A - the highest rating awarded - proving that everything retains its worth if you just look at it in another way.