A study by The University of South Australia has verified the structural integrity of walls constructed from tires packed with earth. Tire waste represents a major sustainability challenge globally, with Australia alone generating an average of 55 million (450,000 tons) of used tires each year.
A team of scientists has rigorously assessed the structural integrity of a test tire wall to examine how the structure performed under various stressors. The wall proved to be as structurally sound as conventional walls used in residential applications. “The wall we tested was the first of its kind to be scientifically tested in this fashion, and all the data indicates tire walls can be extremely strong and safe structures,” Dr Freney says. “While that structural integrity has been observed for many years in applications such as the retaining walls in earth-sheltered, Earthship homes, the lack of supporting data has prevented wider uptake of tire walls by engineers and architects, and we’re hoping this study will change that and expand the range of projects in which these walls are used.”
Dr. Freney suggests several unique characteristics of the structures may offer benefits over some traditional building approaches, particularly for retaining walls. “Not only are the tire walls as structurally sound as concrete or wood sleeper retaining walls, they are also extremely resilient. Unlike a concrete wall, we found these walls have the ability to ‘bounce back into shape’ following impact, such as from an earthquake. And if a drainage material such as recycled concrete rubble or crushed bricks is used to fill the tires, they also offer excellent drainage, which can be a major consideration in many retaining wall scenarios. Furthermore, the use of recycled fill materials reduces the environmental impact of the wall.”
While the study only tested one real world wall as part of the project, Yachong Xu developed software models that allow the data obtained to be extrapolated to other designs, making the results applicable to a wide range of scenarios and stakeholders. “We really believe this research provides a strong evidence base for the expanded use of tire walls in housing and other applications,” Dr Freney says.
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