October 17th, 2007

Ann Vole

fiber brick construction

an article on "paper houses"
http://realestate.msn.com/Improve/green/Article2.aspx?cp-documentid=5545522

I have been thinking of this idea for a while but did not know anyone was doing it yet.
"...the production of Portland cement, which is literally the glue that binds together concrete, accounts for anywhere from 6% to 8% of all greenhouse gases produced by human activity today, according to industry and government estimates..." - from the above link

This was the main reason I was looking for alternatives to concrete was the many environmentally harmful aspects of concrete with the idea of using insulation as the load bearing element of the home as a second reason and using local, low-tech materials as a third. The recycled paper bricks in the article were using Portland cement as the "glue" which surprised me a little in that papier-mache is usually made using other things as the "glue" such as gluten rich flour or Plaster of Paris (same stuff as in gypsum boards). Rock wool and fiberglass can both be made into rigid boards which are very good at preventing compression which can then be very effective with a skin of material that does not stretch (such as paper) to make very strong structures. There is now a plant fiber version of batt insulation that is almost identical to fiberglass in physical and insulation qualities. I wonder if paper fibers can be made into a fiberglass-like structure and somehow glued together to make rigid board material and then wrapped in traditional paper or more preferably in aligned fiber layers like orientated strand board (OSB) that is commonly used in construction (OSB is made with layers of wood chips that are lined up in the same direction of their grain in each layer and each layer aligned in a different direction then the other layers) The combination will make very strong structures with optimal insulation value. Next is to replace wood fibers with a crop fiber like flax straw or even wheat straw or make fibers similar to rock wool by melting dirt and sand and blowing it into fibers. A portable and solar/wind powered production facility would be even more optimum so the material can be made very close to the construction. I have been collecting newspapers for a while with the intention of testing out my many ideas on fiber walls with newsprint fibers. Another interesting concept is the idea that empty space with a reflective coating can be similar or better at insulating then fiberglass so if layers of paper with 1/2 inch air gaps can be put into the design, it will be a good insulation option.