Got a few thousand soda and beer cans you’ve been waiting to recycle?
Architect Richard Van Os Keuls, a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, might be an inspiration.Van Os Keuls lives in a 1953 brick tract house, to which he built a 230 sq. foot addition on to the back in 2000. The nearly-finished plywood and insulation board structure was covered with building paper, waiting to be sided or otherwise finished. He found bricks too expensive, and didn’t want the usual siding alternatives.
After some thought and consideration, Van Os Keuls decided to try a new medium no architect and none of his clients had used before — flattened aluminum soda and beer cans.This Maryland house uses aluminum cases for shingling
Years before, he had seen a truck run over a discarded soda can and suspected it would make a wonderful aluminum shingle, and he began stashing a few discarded cans away to explore this notion later. When Van Os Keuls finally decided to side his addition, his goal wasn’t to be “artsy” or make a “green” statement — he simply wanted an inexpensive way to cover the side of his house. He soon discovered that readying and applying thousands of cans is a labor-intensive process. Van Os Keuls prepares the cans in small batches — three to twelve at a time. Each can is washed to avoid attracting ants; then it is smashed, twice. Wearing heavy-soled construction boots, he first stomps each one with his feet and then further flattens it with a sledge hammer. Hammering rounds the corners so the cans can’t cut anybody who leans up against the wall. Each can, secured with a long aluminum nail, overlaps the previous one. When a varied assortment of aluminum “shingles” is collected and processed, he puts up 30-40 at a time. He never puts up two cans of the same color together. Van Os Keuls estimates the project will take 22,000 cans, and as of April, 2004, he is almost done with only 2000 cans to go.At first he was going to put all the cans up and then paint them. However, Van Os Keuls found that he liked liked the play of sunlight on the colors. Because he likes lots of color, he began collecting beer, juice and soda cans from other countries and began buying cases of soda for the color of the can: Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda (chartreuse cans) and cheap grape soda, for example. “I have never bought something and thrown out the content,” he said.Maryland doesn’t have a deposit-return on cans like some states, so cans find their way into recycling bins and then into county dump recycling facilities. Van Os Keuls first tried to collect soda cans by getting them from the local neighborhood dump, but was cited twice and fined for theft of city property and for transporting stolen property. So now, he has to count on donations, finding cans that don’t make it into people’s bins, and buying brands and flavors whose colors he likes.As he goes along, Van Os Keuls learns more about his “shingles” — they are not noisy when it rains. He knows that over time, aluminum generally attracts a chalky oxidation, but this hasn’t appeared in the three years since the project started — the printer’s ink on the aluminum is slowing down the process. However, Van Os Keuls suspects the colors on his house will look more muted in five years.Tin cans cover this planter to compliment the tin can houseVan Os Keuls’ home may be one-of-a-kind for a while. While currently three of his clients are “mildly interested” in the technique, he does not plan to use it commercially until can-washing and -flattening becomes mechanized. He has made some preliminary experiments to accomplish this but the new system requires more work and time.For further information, contact Richard Van Os Keuls by mail: 1507 Gridley Lane; Silver Spring, Maryland 20902
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