How to Help Low-Income Families: Recycling Building Materials

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Low-Income Houses Built from Recycled Materials

As my husband and I were watching a news channel tonight, a story came on that got my attention. The subject of the report was Dan Phillips, a self-taught builder, plumber, and electrician, from Huntsville, Texas. To that description of his talents can be added environmentalist and humanitarian.

How does he tie these talents together? Since 1996, Dan Phillips has been collecting and recycling building materials and anything else he can synthesize into the construction of homes for low-income families in his hometown of Huntsville. To date, he’s built 14 homes to help low-income families.

Phillips’ vision came from his awareness that landfills were full of discarded building materials while so many families were in need of affordable housing. Frame samples were to be discarded by a local shopkeeper so Dan took them and used them to design a ceiling. Discarded cut glass platters and plates have been reused for windows. Discarded corks were recycled into flooring. Not only is he recycling materials that would otherwise be buried in a landfill, he’s also designing homes that are energy efficient. The homes (80% of each home is built with recycled materials) are small because the working poor can’t afford the extra space, extra heating, extra lighting, and extra furnishings expenses. The amenities are practically nil such as dishwasher, trash compactor, etc. His homes provide the basics and pass all the required building codes.

Dan Phillips can be further commended in that he hires unskilled labor and teaches employable trade skills that they can take with them when the project is completed. The soon-to-be owner of the home must also invest time into the building of their soon to be new home. Their labor earns them partial ownership. For the balance, they must apply for the low-income housing mortgage; therefore, they must be earning at least minimum wages and have good credit or no credit to qualify. Other cities have consulted with him to learn how they, too, can create environmentally efficient low-income housing. Dan Phillips reaffirms the belief that one person can make a difference.

View an interview with Dan Phillips, March 2008:

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One thought on “How to Help Low-Income Families: Recycling Building Materials

  1. Cameron Kelly

    we should always think about recycling our waste products to help the environment.,;.

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