Trash – a thing of beauty
The world is full of trash, more now than ever, since civilization began. Everyone is constantly struggling to rid their homes of indestructible items that will not degrade naturally and remain in landfills for an undetermined amount of time. There is one man in Texas, however, who has found a way to make use of at least some of the stuff previously destined for the landfill, and he’s building houses with it.
For years, Dan Phillips of Huntsville, Texas, was fascinated with two things – garbage dump discoveries and construction. Like all great inventive minds, he found a way to combine both passions into a vocation and a charity. About 12 years ago Phillips mortgaged his house and started Phoenix Commotion, a construction company whose primary purpose was to build affordable housing with recycled construction products.
Phoenix Commotion builds houses that are a hubbub of materials salvaged from landfills or donated from builders and demolition crews, your basic "commotion" of products. So far he has built 14 homes in Huntsville, with 80 percent of the materials representing salvaged products. The labor comes from minimum wage constructions workers, many of whom take their new skills and move on to higher earning jobs, along with labor from the home’s eventual resident.
Phillips’ homes are not only environmentaly friendly and sustainable, they are also artistic, quirky and creative. After learning that a frame shop was getting rid of old samples, he created a zigzag patterned ceiling using thousands of picture frame corners. Walls and counters are frequently made of shards of broken tile. Mismatched bricks, shattered mirrors, bottle butts, DVDs and even a cushy flooring from wine corks are not uncommon designs in his small eco friendly homes. In addition, since he is not beholding to standard size rooms and designs, he is able to utilize end cuts of wood for studs and uneven sheets of plywood he arranges in sturdy and visually interesting grids.
His wife Marsha Phillips, who was a high school art teacher, reviews his plans with her artistic eye and passes on the aesthetics. The homes meet building codes, and the city of Huntsville is supportive of his projects and has arranged for a warehouse for him to collect and maintain future building supplies. The company received the award for the most innovative housing worldwide from The Institute for Social Invention in London in 2003. A Google search will provide you with examples of some of his projects.
If you’re looking for a home that doesn’t look like everyone else’s or can’t figure out what to do with your 1960’s bathroom, take a page out of Dan Phillips’ play book, the possibilities are endless. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure an idiom that seems to have been written with Dan Phillips in mind.