Trash House

Doug EichelbergerThere is plenty enough to know about all the trash we create and the wastefulness of our ways. But when you meet Colorado architect, Doug Eichelberger, you are happy to find a person who is all about solutions, putting trash to use as a building material.

A visit to his Lucky Ranch reveals a very special looking barn, built out of trash. He used scrap plastic for the foundation blocks, then erected walls of baled trash paper. The wall materials were inexpensive and provided excellent insulating quality, says Eichelberger.

Construction of the Lucky Ranch trash barnEichelberger and some of his associates see plenty of possibilities for this type construction in the developing world. The materials were virtually free, excluding transportation. The majority of the cost was labor, which is plentiful in the developing world, he points out in his PowerPoint presentation.

Some of Eichelberger’s conclusions:

* Plastic waste is in abundance and could be taken out of landfills and used to build structures
• Plastic bales are weaker than conventional methods, but where materials are not available (i.e. Tsunami stricken areas) could be useful
• With more compaction and investigative testing plastic bale strength could surpass that of straw bales


Some lab testing on plastic bales was completed in the spring of 2005 at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Engineering students completed a number of tests on numerous bales.  Their paper/ results can be viewed at.  Since the wall system required a panelization/ post tension approach, lab tests should be completed on bales configured in those conditions.  From those results design loads per span etc. can be established.  Further tests could evaluate a bale’s insulative qualities. Stuccoing each side of a bale will capture air between, this dead air becomes that insulative quality.

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