The conventional housing market may be bust, but eco-homes are flourishing. The latest architectural feat comes from the German Dratz brothers, who’ve constructed an office building entirely from recycled paper.
The Dratz brothers’ innovative building stands at 2,045 square feet—that's roughly 550 bales of local, compacted, and recycled paper. To build the office the brothers received a $200,000 grant from the Zollverein School of Management and Design, a German firm with a focus on sustainability. Not only are the materials repurposed, but the building’s location is too. The site of the “Paper House” was previously a mining compound.
While a building made out of bales of recycled paper is at the forefront of environmental design, it might leave a lot to be desired in terms of safety, aesthetics and livability. One obvious complication is weather: The Dratz brothers say the tightly packed paper bales form a rain barrier that can endure days of rain. The Paper House needs to dry out in the sun soon after heavy rain, though. A few days of rain aside, it probably would not be able to hold up against several days of inclement weather or anything stronger than rain. This version of the office is designed to be a temporary workspace—the brothers do have more permanent recycled paper structures in plan for the future.
The Paper House is just one in a long string of eco-friendly homes that have flooded the market. In Japan they’re building 800-square-feet homes, Poland is turning alleys into apartments, and England is converting waste into houses.
But do these micro-homes actually persuade people to live green, or are they just design gimmicks? The environmental advantages of micro-homes are plentiful—less heating and cooling, less room for wasteful appliances, less material in the building process, the list goes on. But for obvious reasons, in terms of practicality for long-term living, these homes might not be ideal. Also, without thoughtful, environmentally conscious design and materials, the whole venture into green living might be pointless.
Even though there are downsides to paper houses, at least the Dratz brothers are thinking about the ecological effects of modern-day living, while turning waste into something useful.
Eco-homes may seem gimmicky to those of us in inefficient, 1,000+-square-feet houses, but we probably shouldn’t throw stones until we’ve tried living in a paper house ourselves.
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