Would Styrofoam Housing Work?

August 25 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Home   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

I recently came upon an interesting article about a village in Japan being built entirely out of Styrofoam. The walls of these buildings are pretty thick, but it only takes three people a few hours to assemble and a layer of mortar and paint ensure protection from the elements. Here’s a short clip of the actual assembly…

Having grown up in a Bucky Fuller dome structure, I immediately took a liking to this shape. Not only is the dome incredibly strong, but it also uses less material than the average home. But having also been raised by hippies, any mention of the word Styrofoam sends chills down my spine. I agree, it’s a great material for a dome structure in that it’s highly insulated against cold and hot temperatures and, like in the video, very easy to build. But there are myriad problems with such a building material.

For instance, the disposal of the houses would be an environmental catastrophe. Also, imagine the toll that 20 years of sun and rain would exert on such a light and highly corrosive structure. There’s a reason water is called the Universal Solvent – it can eat through just about anything given enough time. The idea of an entire village, much less a country, having all its Styrofoam houses replaced is staggering (maybe ship them to war-torn countries to be made into napalm?).

Another downside would be the unholy swath of destruction left in the path of a drunk driver. Styrofoam is light, it breaks easily under pressure, and isn’t too great at stopping an out of control tractor trailer. Floods could wipe an entire countryside clean of the buoyant dwellings. Fire would be a grave concern — the amount of toxins released into the air would be enough of a health risk to warrant an evacuation of the surrounding area. Plus, when a wood house creaks it sounds pleasant. When a Styrofoam house creaks, it’ll make a sound guaranteed to drive you nuts.

As cool as it would be to live in a Smurf village, it’s just not worth the environmental and physical danger.

Would you want to live in a Styrofoam house?

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Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. I would not live in a Styrofoam house. The idea of an easily constructed building is good but, as you said in your article, the downsides are innumerable.

    Posted by: fantasywriter   August 26, 2008
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  2. I agree, aesthetically and environmentally I hate the idea.

    I wonder, though, if we couldn’t create a biodegradable substance similar to styrofoam that could be used to make better shelters in emergency situations like refugee camps. I live in the Bay Area where styrofoam is banned, but I see that something sort of similar has been developed that is biodegradable.

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   August 26, 2008
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  3. Mielle – “I wonder, though, if we couldn’t create a biodegradable substance similar to styrofoam that could be used to make better shelters in emergency situations like refugee camps.”

    I guess that could work, maybe the biodegradable Styrofoam could be assembled at the location with simple molds and quick-drying material. That way, unlike tents or mobile homes, all you’d have to take to the location would be a tube of expandable paste. And if you want to get really crazy, the material could have seeds in it. You’re in a disaster zone right? So plant your house and rebuild the environment.

    Posted by: martymcfly   August 27, 2008
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