Building with Papercrete
by Michael Cockram
There has been a explosion of interest recently in the development of sustainable building materials, from straw bale to cob. A relative newcomer to the green materials scene is papercrete. This unlikely marriage of repulped paper and portland cement has produced a material with some intriguing characteristics.
Papercrete can be used in many of the same applications as concrete, but is lighter in weight and has a high insulating value. As with many new green materials, papercrete is being researched and tested by a group of resourceful individuals, small builders, and designers.
"The principal appeal of papercrete is its ease of construction and the use of recycled materials," says Barbara Scheer, a semiretired San Francisco accountant. She came across the material while researching methods for building an addition to her humble Oregon cabin.
Scheer enlisted the help of Peter Reppe, a visiting German engineer, and both became engrossed with the material's potential. With the support of the Lost Valley Educational Center near Dexter, Oregon, they have developed a method for forming papercrete into large blocks and begun offering workshops on the process.
"Once the mixer is in place I can handle the whole process" adds Scheer, "from the mixing and forming of the material to stacking and mortaring." >>>
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Experimenters with the "new" green material — papercrete — pour a slurry into forms from a simple barrel mixer.
Photo: Barbara Scheer
Tim Pye and Cathryn Swann built their own house of papercrete. The exterior walls are poured in place; one interior wall is of papercrete block, for sound buffering between spaces.
Photo: © Cathryn Tezha Swann
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