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Building with Papercrete and Paper Adobe
A Revolutionary New Way to Build Your Own Home for Next to Nothing
by Gordon Solberg
Review by Thomas J. Elpel
Is it possible to build a house for $1,000 or less? Yes, such things are still possible with creative plans and alternative materials like papercrete or paper adobe. Papercrete (also known as fibercrete or fibrous cement) is made from recycled wastepaper reduced to pulp in an oversize blender made with a lawnmower blade. It is mixed with a small amount of cement and sand. (Or, in the case of paper adobe, the paper pulp is mixed with clay soil instead of cement.) Papercrete or paper adobe can be cast into blocks, poured into wall or roof forms, or hand-sculpted over formwork to make houses of just about any design you can imagine.
Papercrete and paper adobe should be considered experimental building materials which may not be approved where building codes are in effect. Strawbale housing started out much the same way. The first strawbale homes were built out in the boondocks where codes didn't exist. The technology proved itself over time and gradually became accepted by codes, first in rural places, and now in many urban settings. Papercrete may follow a similar route of acceptance, but it will take time and cautious experimentation.
Interestingly, papercrete was first patented about 100 years ago, but the technology never went anywhere because nobody could make any money off of it! Building with Papercrete and Paper Adobe is a great introduction to this new/old technique. Perhaps your own papercrete or paper adobe home or out-building will one day contribute to the knowledge and acceptance of this very cost-effective and resource-efficient building method. ISBN: 1-928627-02-1. 150 pages. 2002.