Retread (lightly) – Granby area home uses 17,000 discarded tires in its walls
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado
There may be boxes still tucked away in corners of back rooms, but the Hagars are settled in and couldn’t be prouder of their newly constructed retirement home.
Even if it means giving up on finding a mortgage loan.
The Hagars’ long-awaited adobe-style abode is not your standard stick-built mountain chalet, and for this reason these software engineers find themselves in a mortgage vacuum.
Their 2,700 square-foot home is constructed with a material that is an unwanted problem: used tires.
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As many as 17,000 tires are compressed into 170 wired bales stacked to create the home’s 6-foot-thick walls.
The Hagar home, a few miles from Granby, may be the only one in the United States that utilizes the experimental method of tire-bale construction, among only a handful in the world.
“The main reason it’s unique is that the structural integrity of the house is tire bales,” said Laura Hagar.
The tires also serve as the home’s insulation.
But this new mode of construction – a cousin to Earthship homes that have walls made from dirt-filled tires enclosed in concrete – does not sit well with conventional financing firms, no matter its “green” merit.
“There are no other houses like this, so if you can’t find comparables, you can’t get an appraisal. If you can’t get an appraisal, you can’t get a mortgage,” Laura said.
The couple has been turned down by three appraisers and about 30 different mortgage brokers and lenders.
Meanwhile, a letter of credit taken out to build the house when lending was loose is about to balloon, Laura said.
The tire bales for the outside walls create a large solar thermal mass that keeps the home at 60 to 70 degrees in summer, and sometimes warmer in winter. The home is designed to cross-ventilate with upper windows on the north side and a wall of glass facing south.
When the home reaches 73 degrees, Laura said, the north windows are designed to open. Automatic shades on the south side provide added temperature control. The free blessing of solar is used passively through windows, creating a pleasant solarium for the Hagars’ healthy plants, but designed solar panels for the home will have to wait because of the loan dilemma, Laura said.
Solar was planned to be the home’s primary heat source, and solar panels would be the only tax credit for which the home could qualify.
Also on hold is the home’s wind turbine and a planned courtyard with xeriscape landscaping.
In the Hagars’ opinion, it’s become increasingly evident, with various exceptions in the United States, that the system encompassing home building and home mortgages is set up to encourage stick-built homes to the disadvantage of alternative fossil-fuel-saving structures.
Grand County, she said, was open to their experiment in the countryside, but the reason homes like the Hagars are not more common in the states is due to layers of building-related codes and a banking system that has yet to catch up to innovative modes of construction.
“There are building codes, there are city codes, there are county codes, there are state codes, there are covenants in covenant-protected neighborhoods, and by the time you add up all that political power, you stick with what is known instead of trying something new,” Laura said.
Beyond its unique construction, the home is set up like any other: two bedrooms, three baths, a high-end kitchen, a two-car attached garage. “I mean, you can find those all over Grand County,” Laura said.
Of course, the Hagars were mindful of the home’s energy usage, incorporating Energy Star appliances, an on-demand hot-water heater and other efficiencies.
“This house has a nice feel, it doesn’t feel pretentious,” Laura said. “It feels comfortable, and that’s what we wanted.”
Alongside contractor Jeffery Kean and subcontractors willing to invent practices that would work, the Hagars built their home over three years.
“We used a lot of free labor. A lot of friends helped us do the work. And when I look at the ceiling now,” Laura said, pointing to the soffit in the living room, “I see Art Wilson’s hands as he’s troweling clay over here, and Bill Gerblick over here. … This house has a lot of spirit of friendship in it because of that.”
The Hagars built the home for all its benefits and with the hope it could shed light on how waste tires could be phased into the building industry.
At the end of 2007, about 128 million scrap tires remained in stockpiles in the United States alone, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
“We think we’ve done something pretty darn great here,” Laura said. “But we haven’t found anyone in the government or even anyone in the ‘green’ building industry that’s interested in the very least.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.
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