If you'd like to live in a house walled in by glass bottles, go ahead and start stacking. It's been done many times.
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, one architect developed a system to build walls out of plastic bottles bonded by concrete and reinforced by a net of recycled material. In most cases, though, bottle houses are rare, off-the-grid experiments.
However, green homebuilders report that high-end customers are commissioning custom homes whose materials have a higher percentage of recycled products than homes built using conventional materials. In the Bentley home in Steamboat Springs, Colo., the walls are insulated with cellulose, a recycled material. The carpet comes from recycled plastic bottles, and the floor tile is made from recycled car windshields.
Other recycled materials, such as steel, are becoming more popular in home building, as well. A house frame made from recycled steel requires no more than the material that comes from six scrapped cars [source: Steel Recycling Institute]. Composite lumber made from recycled wood and plastic is also an option, especially for decks and outdoor living spaces.
While recycled materials are becoming more available to builders, the buyers tend to drive major initiatives to use them. With more and more people jumping on the "go green" bandwagon, these products are becoming more prevalent. Before long, there may be more houses like the Bentley home right in your own neighborhood.
Yes, you can go off the grid, make partnerships with builders who specialize in adobe and straw-bale construction, and pare down the percentage of virgin materials in your dwelling. But for even the most Spartan of homes, whether it's in the heating or in the wiring, you'll have to break down and include a manufactured material somewhere.
For more information on green building, check out the links on the next page.