Kiki & Lala

The Trash Man

Posted on: September 3, 2009

Dan Phillips

Meet Dan Phillips.  He is the founder of Phoenix Commotion.  They are a construction company located in Huntsville, TX.  Nothing extraordinary about that.   Not yet.  He builds houses from scrap, trash, basura.  Anything that has been thrown and forgotten, that still has some durability, is considered worthy building material for this trash man.  A self-taught carpenter, plumber and electrician, Dan has already built 14 homes using discarded materials.  80% of his recycled building materials were found from other construction projects.   Think of those heaps of discarded material beside every construction site around your village.  Those are normally thrown in land fills and sometimes even clog up these land fills.  Check out his projects…amazing!

House of Scrap

House of Scrap

Wine Corks used as flooring

Wine Corks used as flooring

The homes he builds are considered low-cost housing.  With the cost of materials drastically reduced, this is ideal for low-income families.  This idea of his was actually born out of his disdain for mobile (trailer) homes.  Using scrap material allows him to build affordable homes without sacrificing the aesthetics.   Think about it, if you couldn’t afford a decent home, living in a trailer parked in some trailer park doesn’t exactly do anything to uplift your self -worth.  Living in a pretty house helps address that.

These are bases of wine bottles used like stained glass decoratives in a door.  Look how pretty they came out.

I guess the town of Huntsville can't get enough of the vino

I guess the town of Huntsville can't get enough of the vino

In 2004, city officials decided to work with Dan and built a depot for discarded materials.  Anybody who has anything that can potentially be used in construction can deposit it in this depot.  These “donations” are tax deductible too as the scrap will be used to build low-cost housing.  Clever don’t you think?

Look at this counter top made of some wood found in abundance in Texas, which builders find hard to use.  Don’t you think they even look nicer than the usual granite counter tops?

Osage Orange Wood

And what about the ceiling  made of picture frame corners that some picture shop was throwing away? A little too much for my taste but an ingenous idea nonetheless.


More cool finds below.

Wood burning stove he found in a old ship

Wood burning stove he found in an old ship

Old very Gaudi!

Old very Gaudi!

Since his homes are really built for the benefit of low-income families, he gets somewhat troubled by the thought that these houses may one day be “gentrified”.  However, he is appeased by the thought that gentrification might help create a shift into using recycled materials and encourage creative ways of building new homes.

The interior of the house made of discarded material

The interior of the house made of discarded material

Interestingly enough, Phoenix Commotion is a for profit company.  Dan wants to show builders that using discarded material actually impacts the value of your company positively.

Broken tiles used to tile a bathroom floor. Awesome!

Broken tiles used to tile a bathroom floor. Awesome!

Cattle bone as house numbers! A little gross though...

Cattle bone as house numbers! A little gross though...

The genius of this model doesn’t just rest in Dan’s ability to see the usefulness of scrap.  He is not just building low cost homes, he’s building and strengthening a community.  He is creating possibilities for his city to get involved, to engage.  And this is what impresses me most.  The city folks are now more conscious about turning their trash into treasure. This is encouraged through government provided depots and tax deductions.  As a result low earners have the chance to live in houses that aren’t trailers and that actually look like homes.  And of course, Dan, the trash man, laughs all the way to the bank…What a well oiled model!

So why can’t we do the same for the housing projects back home?  Our homeless are creative enough to build shanties out of carton and other discarded materials.  We’ve already got the materials rotting in and clogging our land fills.  All we need is political will and a bunch of civic-minded citizens to make this happen.  Why don’t we sell this idea to Flower from twinpopsis.  Right up her alley, don’t you think?

Photo credits:


2 Responses to "The Trash Man"

i love that it’s not baduy.
there are trash collecting “artists” here and while some of their creations are… well, creative they don’t look so nice.
i think dan’s houses look chic! i love the fireplace from some old ship.

i don’t see any reason we can’t do this here…

yes i totally agree! i have told gawad kalinga before to go to this route instead of the cement+yero homes. an edible garden on the rooftop would be good too for these depressed areas.

another project on my mind is “love is sweeter the second time around” which is basically these stuff — reusing stuff for furniture, architectural details, etc.

lala, come home so we can work on it!

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