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Study paves way for widespread architectural use of end-of-life tyres

University of South Australia Media Release

A new study by The University of South Australia has tested and verified the structural integrity of walls constructed from tyres packed with earth, with the results potentially providing new opportunities for the reuse of end-of-life tyres in the construction industry.

Tyre waste represents a major sustainability challenge globally, with Australia alone generating an average of 55 million (450,000 tonnes) end-of-life tyres each year.

While earth-packed tyre walls have been used in niche construction scenarios for decades, there has previously been no strong empirical data available to support their use, a fact that has limited their wider uptake by architects and engineers.

Supported by Tyre Stewardship Australia, a UniSA team consisting of Yachong Xu, Martin Freney, Reza Hassanli, Yan Zhuge, Mizanur Rahman and Rajibul Karim, has rigorously assessed the structural integrity of a test tyre wall to examine how the structure performed under various stressors.

According to Dr Martin Freney, 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 tyre 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 tyre 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.”

In considering expanded uses for tyre walls, 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 tyre 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 tyres, 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, UniSA PhD candidate 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 tyre walls in housing and other applications, and the next step will be to engage with an industry partner to develop a range of real-world applications for tyre walls,” Dr Freney says.


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  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Sounds promising

  2. Phil Pryor

    Long ago when I was young, (hah) a retired wrestler, formerly known a Gorgeous George, became manager of the New Orleans tyre dump. Old tyres were layered, interspersed with soil so it all built up. He walked on it inspecting, and, it always shivered slowly like a huge jelly. He was a clever chap and made sensible comments about the huge dangers of accumulating tyre waste, then a problem not yet faced well. Then they started some artificial reef construction there. This is good news, but more must be done, e g, road base usage, new techniques in recycling for chemicals, other construction usage, footwear, etc. I love seeing boats, e g, tugs, with old tyres as bumpers.

  3. len

    Given the demise of the petrol auto to be replaced by EV by 2030, recycling used tyres makes sense. In 2021 there about 20 million cars registered here, ie 100 million tyres. A small rammed earth home can be built with about 2000 tyres, ie 50,000 homes. Nah, won’t happen, the building material cartel doesn’t like competition, rammed earth is like kryptonite to that crowd.

  4. Mccottie

    A viable way to re-use tyres. Local councils could use them for skate ramps and rebound walls. I believe they are also used in road base. Farmers may find a use for keeping animals apart. Endless uses if the right mind set was applied. I would not mind our dividing fence being constructed with tyres between our lot and storm water drain. All storm water drains could be considered.

  5. New England Cocky

    This method of building was seen in an episode of that excellent British home building programme some years ago. It provided excellent strewngth and insulation on the northern (Pole side) of the building.

    I can see it being an alternative building method in a rural application with adequate appropriate strengthening to carry the top plate & roof trusses. Even so, the practical difficulty remains filling inside/underside the tyre sides, which takes considerable physical effort when using any soil. Expanding foam is one alternative possibility, or some easier method of placing soil INSIDE the horizontal tyre and packing it tight.

    But as Mccottie notes, why restrict it to houses, sheds & other structures? Why not consider walls, like the dry stone walls in the English countryside where the too many stones from the paddock were built into field separating walls. Certainly use in levee banks needs some investigation.

  6. Mccottie

    They could also be a living wall with plants of many sorts including veggies.
    Old glass jars & bottles could be included, especially coloured glass.

  7. Don

    Studying the construction of the retaining wall in the test experiment, the tyres have been graded according to size. Each tyre overlaps two tyres in the wall course below it and each layer is ram filled with earth as construction proceeds. The wall has a slight vertical inclination (leaning back) into the granular backfill. One possible way of strengthening the wall could be to premix the earth fill material with cement as each course progresses. It looks to me like a fantastic idea although use in heavily timbered areas could be an issue during bushfire season.

  8. LambsFry Simplex.

    They have been using them for artificial reefs for decades.

  9. andy56

    man oh man, this is such an ancient idea already…..look guys …..,I just discovered fire……

    This idea is great IF your willing to do the work your self or you have cheap labour available.

    Costs need to be calculated carfeully. Sure the tyre is costless but the fill isnt and filling a tyre is very labour intensive.
    You still need footings too.

    I have made a few retaining walls like this and they are great for this purpose..
    Lay the tyres flat and fill with aggregate, makes fantastic road base.

    This “idea” to use tyres has been around for quite a while. Just use Mr Google.

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