Little-Known Disadvantages of Recycled Tires as a Building Material
I have decided to deeply research and outline the little-known disadvantages of using recycled tires as a building material. This subject is complex with many nuances, so I aim to explore it thoroughly.
One of the main potential issues with recycled tires as a building material is durability. Tires are designed to be flexible and hold up under friction from rolling, not remain rigid and sturdy for decades like traditional building materials. Here are some potential durability problems:
Compression – Recycled tire bricks or walls may compress and deform over time under the weight of a roof or upper floors. This could lead to instability or cracks.
Weathering – Exposure to sun, rain, and temperature extremes can cause the rubber in tires to degrade faster than materials like wood or concrete. They may crack, peel, or disintegrate.
Pests – Rodents and insects are attracted to the odor of rubber from tires. They may burrow into or nest within tire walls and floors, further weakening the structure.
Fire resistance – Tires burn rapidly and toxic fumes are released. Using a high percentage of tire material could make a building more flammable.
To increase durability, tire buildings often require frequent maintenance, chemical treatments to reduce flammability, and reinforcements like concrete or rebar. But even with precautions, the long-term sturdiness remains uncertain.
Recycled tires can release hazardous chemicals into indoor air through off-gassing. The main concerns are:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – Chemicals like benzene and toluene can off-gas from tire rubber. VOCs are known carcinogens and respiratory irritants.
Carbon black – This material gives tires their black color but can be an inhalation hazard, especially during manufacturing. Trace amounts linger and get released from recycled tires.
Lead and zinc – These heavy metals are embedded in the rubber from vulcanization. Off-gassing could lead to gradual accumulation in the body.
Good ventilation is essential for any building using recycled tires. Many experts recommend a vapor barrier between the tires and interior living space along with fans or air filters to dilute VOC levels. Still, off-gassing may persist at low concentrations. Those sensitive to chemicals should exercise caution.
Constructing with recycled tires comes with its own set of difficulties compared to standard building methods:
Heavyweight – Tires weigh significantly more than materials like wood framing. Supporting a roof or upper story requires thick, reinforced tire walls on the lower level.
Thermal gaps – The hollow center of tire bricks/blocks allows air movement, reducing insulation. Filling the voids with grout or foam can help.
Complex shaping – The stiffness of tire rubber makes curved walls or shaped structures more difficult compared to bent wood or molded concrete.
Specialized equipment – Cutting, drilling, and grinding recycled tires to size requires heavy-duty tools not needed for lighter materials. The extra equipment costs can add up.
For these reasons, tire construction often relies heavily on concrete, stucco, rebar, and steel reinforcements to strengthen the structure and reduce shaping difficulties. The recycling benefit gets reduced.
Constructing buildings from recycled tires holds some appeal for sustainability. However, the disadvantages like durability concerns, off-gassing of chemicals, and challenging construction indicate tires may not be suitable for extensive use in homes and commercial buildings. Tire material could be considered in very limited applications, but further research on mitigating the downsides is still needed. For now, traditional building materials appear to remain superior overall.