Sunken in discarded tires? Here's a Puerto Rican architectural solution.

Sunken in discarded tires? Here’s a Puerto Rican architectural solution.

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The island of Puerto Rico to the day, has an increasing accumulation problem of car tires that are not being processed, reused, recycled or even up-cycled for the sake of the environment in a general scale. Although there are machines to process them, separate the wire from the rubber and shred it, these places are currently closed. According to the EPA, there are more than a 100 products currently made of material obtained from discarded vehicle tires, information the Government of Puerto Rico seems to have ignored until recently.

A Law was approved by Puerto Rico’s Government to allow the use of Recycled Materials for public infrastructure. Gratefully local young designers were already looking at it with potential: while some are working on accessories, handbags, clothing pieces like local designers at No tire® brand; others are experimenting on architectural elements and possibly infrastructure now that this law has been approved.

So what can we do with this new law? What other infrastructural uses can we make out of this discarded rubber?
Under the category of Architectural elements, a thesis called: Sunken in tires: Pneumatic re-utilization and the possibilities as an Architectural Component, was presented by recent graduate from Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture, Miraida Rodríguez Muñíz, with an innovative idea on how to reutilize discarded tires for permanent architectural use. Through the identification of the problem on the island, Rodríguez states:

“Because of high consumption on the island, population growth, urban sprawl and inadequate disposition of waste; trash, throughout the years has acquired a primordial role. It is an alarming topic because of the constant close-ups of the landfills and the propagation of others of clandestine class. Pneumatic excess on the island not only creates an environmental situation, but also one that’s physical, economical and sanitation wise. At the moment, there is no existence of a market for this material, for creating a system or material to dispose of them would then reduce its spread and end the creation of clandestine landfills.”

Part of Rodríguez’s research, required for her to understand the process of shredded rubber combined with various additives and components mixed up to achieve the required resistance in order to withstand seismic resistance, while taking advantage of the rubber’s natural flexibility towards torsion and compression. Lab tests were performed in accordance with Chemical and Structural Engineers at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico for the respective approvals and counseling on the required matter.B03_PRES_FINAL copy

11Material composition. From tire to rubber block.
Tires are comprised of synthetic rubber, natural rubber, wired fabric with carbon black and of course, chemical compounds such as zinc oxide, cadmium, sulfur and stearic acid. This description aims for pneumatic tires (inflatable), those we use today in comparison of earlier solid rubber tires. Tires can be processed for fuel or reprocessing a new rubber type. By burning its rubber that is previously cut and shredded after wire extraction, the process generates serious environmental contamination because of toxins emitted to the environment. Another process removes the burning phase and just reduces it to the shredding in tiny parts of the wireless rubber, useful for products such as rubber tiles, retention walls or tire stoppers.

Pattern modeling

Rubber blocks from 3d printed scaled models to real scaled models

The process undertaken by Miraida Rodríguez was achieved by using the shredded elements in order to provide her product with a sustainable conscious design eliminating the burning process for the mix. Still knowing chemical components will still exist in the mix, there is still a future on how this situation can be solved to overcome tire waste.

The design of the Rubber Block is a geometrical pattern carefully thought where shadow and light can create a dissimilar texture while providing spaces of light and wind through the interior space. Ideally, the blocks can be used vertically and horizontally as a building skin, a balcony railing or an interior partition wall. The rubber mix Rodríguez created was then mold-poured to achieve the results you see on the images, blocks were tested for structural integrity achieving excellent results.

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.