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Work starts on the house made from waste

Published 26 November 2012

Construction begins today on the UK's first house made almost entirely of thrown-away waste material.

Old toothbrushes, discarded video tapes and Christmas decorations are among the "rubbish" being tested for suitability to help rebuild TV designer and presenter Kevin McCloud’s famous House that Kevin Built.

The project is led by the University of Brighton and the house is being constructed in the grounds of its Faculty of Arts campus in Grand Parade, Brighton.

Thrown-away bricks, ply sheets and wood are among the materials that will be used for the house which was originally built in six days in 2008 by McCloud and architect Duncan Baker-Brown, lecturer and researcher in architecture at the University of Brighton.

Now known as the Brighton Waste House, the scheme is backed by McCloud himself and is being supported by Brighton and Hove City Council, the Mears Group and a host of companies and an internet-based reuse organisation called Freegle.

The aim is to show how low-carbon homes can be built cheaply and quickly using waste including surplus material from building sites – the construction industry discards 20 per cent of everything it uses, the equivalent of scrapping one in five houses built.

Thrown-away items such as second-hand denim from jeans will be tested for their insulation properties. Some material will be new including solar panels and high-performance windows and doors.

Baker-Brown said: "The building will literally lock in waste rather having it burnt, buried into landfill sites or dumped in the ocean."

Students, apprentices, local builders and school children will be involved with the making of the structure, with the ambition to train students and apprentices around emerging green industries.

Kevin McCloud has endorsed the project: "I'm very pleased that the University of Brighton is committed to exploring new low-carbon methods of building. It's exciting to think that the campus could have its own practical demonstration building and I'm delighted to be connected to the university through this innovative piece of construction."

Artist's impression of the completed house

Artist's impression of the completed house

The project involves the city council, City College Brighton and Hove, the Mears Group - UK's leading provider of social housing repair and maintenance – South Downs Solar, which is providing solar panels, Westgate Joinery (triple-glazed windows and doors), and Work This Way, the charity and social enterprise company providing training and employment opportunities for prisoners.

The house will showcase new technologies and will continue to be retrofitted, allowing designers and students to test their windows, solar panels, insulation and construction materials.

Gary Lester from Mears said: "The Waste House is a unique project which provides a once in a life time opportunity for our apprentices to be at the forefront of sustainable development and will create a legacy for future generations."

Several departments from City College Brighton and Hove’s Building Trades area will be involved in the project, covering skills such as bricklaying, carpentry, electrical, plumbing and painting and decorating. Michael Buckman, City College's Director of Building Trades, said: "It will be a fantastic opportunity for nearly a hundred of our learners to not only get valuable on-site experience but also gain insights into new architectural styles and the latest building techniques."

Once complete the house will be used as an exhibition and workshop space by local community groups and will also be used as the university's headquarters for sustainable design.

The project will demonstrate the process of building and once complete the house will one of the first A* energy-efficient rated buildings in the UK.

The effectiveness of solar panels and thermal insulation will be monitored by university students from the School of Environment and Technology and Faculty of Art's architecture students will be involved in the construction process. Interior architecture students will advise on internal design.

Digital media will be used as part of the learning process. A dedicated Faculty of Arts website will preserve all aspects of the project while Apps and QR (Quick Response) codes will be developed to inform people about how each area of the house was constructed.

Baker-Brown added: "This research will inform developments in the construction industry and in the design of houses of the future, and the building will have its own street entrance – putting the house at the heart of the community.

"Reusing waste saves money for big business as well as small, and it relieves pressure on our plant. There really is no such thing as waste or surplus material – it is just stuff in the wrong place – and reusing it saves the environment by reducing the need to mine so much raw material in the first place.

"This is good news for all industries that make things because the cost of raw material and the price of throwing things away is sky-rocketing. Businesses can't afford to keep throwing stuff away and those who start reusing waste will be more likely to survive in the ever-tougher commercial marketplace."

Professor Stuart Laing, the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: "This is an exciting project that we hope will become an example for sustainable construction around the UK and one that will produce far-reaching benefits for the university and the community as a whole."

Find out more about Brighton 'Waste House': The House That Kevin Built.


Caroline Lucas, Brighton's Green MP, cemented a brick at the commencement of work. She said: "When you describe this project to people they don't believe it can possibly withstand the wind, the rain and the elements but what they are going to demonstrate is that it certainly can.

"This (project) is good for creating jobs and good for the environment."

Caroline Lucas and Duncan Baker-Brown

Caroline Lucas and Duncan Baker-Brown

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Contact: Marketing and Communications, University of Brighton, 01273 643022


Kevin McCloud with architect Duncan Baker-Brown

Kevin McCloud with architect Duncan Baker-Brown