Those building blocks will make up the walls of Silver Lake Nature Center’s new Watershed Education Building, or WEB, a roughly 1,000-square-foot “fully sustainable, carbon-zero building” based on architect Michael Reynolds’ “Earthship Biotecture” designs.
As the tire wall grows higher, workers are putting down soil that will serve as a grass berm to surround much of the building.
“It’s like pulling the blanket of the Earth up over you. And that’s going to be the key to our heating and cooling system. We won’t need one in here other than that,” said Lorraine Skala, the nature center’s education director and assistant naturalist.
Her husband, Jim Skala, who’s also working on the project, said the structure will also contain a 1,500-gallon cistern to collect rainwater to irrigate vegetable and fruit plants within the “Earthship” and the nature center’s community gardens.
Each tire, lying on its side, is about 7.5 inches tall, Jim Skala said. After workers pound the dirt into them, each swells to 9.5 inches and 300 pounds.
“Three hundred pounds when you get it filled with dirt,” he said. “You can pick an empty one up right now, and what does it weigh? Ten pounds or so? We’re putting a lot of dirt in them.
“We have nine layers of tires going up,” he said. “We’ll be close to 350 or 360 tires.”
The Silver Lake Nature Center estimates some 300 more tires are needed to finish the tire wall.
The community has been a great supporter of the project, officials said. In additional to free materials and services from local businesses, residents and unions, volunteers are flocking to the project.
On Monday, a handful of Bristol Borough and Bristol Township high school students helped out.
One of them was Derrick Stone, a 17-year-old Harry S Truman High School student. He said he heard about the project through a friend and realized it would help him with his senior project for school.
“We’re filling these tires with dirt so the building can be insulated. It won’t need any air conditioning or heating because the ground is going to heat and cool the building,” he said between swings of his sledgehammer. “I never heard of it before until a friend told me about it. I didn’t know what it was going to be like. It’s actually pretty cool. I didn’t expect it to be like this.”
When all the tires are stuffed with soil, workers will fill in the gaps with concrete and other recycled materials, such as glass bottles and cans.
Once completed, the WEB will have donated solar panels. And while much of the building will be covered by the grass berm, its south face will be visible, showing off a facade of glass and concrete in front of a greenhouse.
The new building will be used as a classroom, a meeting space and a demo-model of sustainable building.
A $25,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is paying for the project. Costs have been reduced because of a large outpouring of community support, according to officials.
Anyone interested in donating funds or volunteering for the project can call the Silver Lake Nature Center at 215-785-1177. For more information on the project, check out www.silverlakenaturecenter.org.
Danny Adler: 215-949-4205;