Green Building with Tire Bales

Posted on October 5, 2010  Comments (7)

Recycling is better than throwing things away. But reuse is better than recycling. And in fact, avoiding use is best. I was at dinner with Duncan Hagar last week when he talked about the house he and his wife built in Colorado. They use tire bales and took advantage of passive solar. They have a blog with interesting details on the green house built by 2 engineers. Tire bales area form of reuse (and while some tires are recycled into asphalt and such things, most waste tires go into landfills).

A tire bale is a “big square brick” of about 100 compressed whole tires. Each bale is approximately 5 feet deep by 5 feet wide by 2.5 ft. high and weighs about 2,000 lbs. (1 ton). A tire bale (by itself) has an energy rating of somewhere between R-40 and R-200 depending on which study you read and how it’s used. The tire bales are encased in concrete, effectively making the tire bale walls of our house about 6-feet thick.

Our house uses approximately 170 full bales and about 5 half bales or about 17,000 tires. Tire bales are FREE as long as one presents a building permit. All we had to do was get the bales hauled from Sedalia to Granby Colorado, a distance of about 135 miles.

The tire bales are stacked like bricks to make up all of the outer walls. These walls form the structural integrity of the house. Shot-crete (sprayed on concrete) is applied to finish the walls, effectively creating a minimum 6-foot thick wall. The entire south of our house is glass windows and doors. This creates a large, active thermal mass, which should maintain a relatively constant temperature of 65-degrees. Imagine the energy savings!

Tire bales are not that new. They have been used for quite some time for building barns, holding river banks, and road construction. Using them for house construction is a fantastic and practical idea whose time has come.

Tire Bale Home Keeps Us Toasty Warm

The house has been warm through the winter months on sunny days, it gets as high as 84 degrees even hotter when sitting directly in the sunshine. At night the temperatures hang around 60 degrees without a fire going in the wood stove and 70-74 degrees with a fire going when outside temperatures are above 10 degrees. We have noticed that when outside temperatures dip under 10 degrees or go sub-zero, we have to really boost the heat in the house either by a constant rip-roaring fire and/or using the baseboard heaters. Fortunately, we have had a mild winter. You see, it takes about 3 years for the thermal mass to completely “heat up” and we’re just now coming into the third year. The most notable difference in the temperature of the house seems to be how much sun we get during the day and are the window coverings closed as quickly as possible when the sun sets or when the sun goes behind clouds for too long.

Related: Concrete Houses 1919 and 2007How tire bales are madeHistorical Engineering: Hanging Flumeposts on mortgages

Wall street journal video on the house and difficulty of financing unique green homes:

The bales were delivered in eight 75-foot semi-truck/trailer loads (20-23 bales per truck) over a period of 5 days. See more details on building a tire bale house. They have also added solar panels this year.

7 Responses to “Green Building with Tire Bales”

  1. curmudgeon
    October 8th, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

    Three years for the thermal mass to completely heat up but the house is too cool if the windows aren’t quickly closed when the sun sets or goes behind the clouds for too long? Seems a bit off to me.

  2. Joshua
    July 20th, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

    I grew up making hay and we also have local homes built from hay. It is a very interesting concept and one that i think works.

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    August 26th, 2012 @ 3:21 am

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  6. James Bly
    August 23rd, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

    The statement that most tires are landfilled is not accurate and has not been true for at least a decade.

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