Off the wall Summer 2014

From houses made of discarded materials to hoovering up our waterways, Resource takes a look at the weird and wonderful news of the moment.

Homeless Homes

Illegally discarded waste is finding a new home in California. Artist Gregory Kloehn is creating small, mobile houses from recycled and reclaimed materials found on the streets of Oakland, California, to provide shelter for homeless people. 

The quirky architectural creations could be created, for example, from a combination of an old refrigerator door, reclaimed wood and a washing machine door (for use as a window), and each comes in cheerful, bright colours. Volunteers and young people from the local high school are all getting involved in the project to create these unique, sofa-sized homes. Talk about charity beginning at home (and, in this case, with homes!). 

For more information, visit

Clever Bins

You may have heard about talking toilets in Japan, creepily analysing the state of your, ahem, deposits, but now a team of inventors in Abu Dhabi is close to perfecting the design for a digital recycling bin that tells you the weight and value of your materials (based on the amount of resources saved by recycling, rather than disposing of, the waste).

Mostafa Nassar, an entrepreneur based in Dubai, first came up with the idea for the digital bin a year ago when he realised that interacting with one’s waste could be the missing link in encouraging people to recycle. 

Nassar hopes the bin, which will collect plastic, paper, metals, and general waste, will make the recycling process ‘more personal’ through the use of an interactive screen. He is now working alongside academics at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology to develop the product, so the bin could be coming to a kitchen near you soon! 

This article was taken from Issue 77

A Load of Hot Air

Solar Wind Energy Tower Inc. (SWET) has a sweat on to deliver its $1.5-billion project to build a massive solar wind downdraft tower in Arizona, USA. 

The plan is to construct an enormous structure that would make use of the hot desert air in a special cooling system in order to create powerful ‘drafts’ to drive turbines. The ‘concrete colossus’, thought to resemble a nuclear power plant cooling tower, would be the tallest building in North America at 686 metres high. 

The company is still receiving patents (and pursuing potential sites for construction), but expects the colossus could be striding into view as early as 2018. 

Marine Litter Sucks

We’ve often wished that cleaning up littered plastic from our polluted waterways could be as easy as hoovering up crumbs off a carpet, but now, with Dyson’s new concept for the M. V. Recyclone, perhaps it could be! 

Designed to suck up plastic and other non-biodegradable litter (like that which killed the poor albatross, below) before it reaches the ocean, the M. V. Recyclone would essentially act as a giant floating vacuum cleaner. Making use of Dyson’s ‘cyclone vacuum technology’, as well as large nets and hydraulic winches, the barge could help to prevent the disastrous effect rubbish can have on marine wildlife. Hoo-ver-y brilliant!