topic posted Wed, May 16, 2007 - 5:54 PM by  philip
i have a few shelter designs i'm going to build from corrugated paperboard, aka cardboard.

anyone else building with cardboard?
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Unsu...

    Re: cardboard!

    Sat, December 15, 2007 - 8:03 PM
    • Re: cardboard!

      Mon, January 7, 2008 - 4:23 PM
      yeah, i've seen that one. but the price is totally ridiculous, considering it's MADE FROM CARDBOARD. i mean, come on...

      "At a purchase price of just $35,000 this is a genuine short-term housing option that could be used in a variety of applications. It is lightweight, transportable, requires no more skill to erect than an Ikea product, and is very affordable."

      i don't know about you, but there's no way in hell i'd shell out 35 grand for a 'short-term housing option'. also, i'm sure that the people who most need short-term shelter (disaster victims, etc.) won't be in the financial position to afford that either.
      • Unsu...

        Re: cardboard!

        Mon, January 7, 2008 - 6:08 PM
        again i's the IDEA that i illustrate not a recommendation to buy one. but theres free cardboard in a lotta locations and a person can get some design ideas from this to maybe build thier own. heck you can buy a nice doublewide for that amount.
      • Unsu...

        Re: cardboard!

        Tue, January 15, 2008 - 11:36 PM
        Hi Philip,
        I have always been interested in cheap shelter and cardboard is an interesting material. I was wondering from what level of construction were you speaking of ? I know that if emergency shelters were built of cardboard there would probably be some type of protective coating to resist weathering. I think that effectively sealing cardboard from the elements would be difficult, but on the other hand if you were speaking of a type of DIY homeless shelter design then a person could get very creative. If you looked at the structure on the Instructables web site that is posted on this discussion that was very clever...origami, but if you are a homeless person, your cold, tired and hungry what might be a self made shelter technique? I have seen on the web students who were challenged to make a cardboard shelter for homeless awareness then sleep in it for a night, they usually made a sort of triangular tube by bending cardboard into the correct shape. It works but the ends are still open to the weather. I'll bet a lot of times a homeless person couldn't always find a huge cardboard box and during the winter what would such a person do. The Instructables Origami shelter was clever in the sense that it could be collapsed and carried off...this is a great idea! I thought if someone considered it there might be an easier technique on how to construct a very simple DIY cardboard shelter. Perhaps even call it hobo technology. Usually a homeless person doesn't have much in the way of resources for building a cardboard tools, no 2" wide tape, no cord or anything, so the challenge is how to come up with a way to build this thing that can be carried away or stashed away for the next night. I think something that completely encloses the occupant and has a way of construction that could use materials cleverly. Perhaps there is a way to join and overlap smaller cardboard pieces like shingles without the aide of tape, string or whatever. Possibly plastic grocery bags could be implemented for a tying together methodology. Why do I ask this? I think it might be an important endeavor for free information to be passed on to homeless people everywhere. Not that I begrudge anyone adequate housing and I hope their circumstances improve but as a survival technique for anyone finding themselves in a bad situation. Do you think this is a good challenge for anyone on here interested? I would gladly discuss it and if we came up with something good we could share it with the masses via the internet. Let me know what you think, it might also be fun. Best Regards, Rick
  • Re: cardboard!

    Sun, January 20, 2008 - 4:58 PM
    The Clancy Cardboard House.
    8 x 12.5 foot cabin built from cardboard and recycled materials, for $62.

    Click on "Image Gallery" to the right for pics. Photos are not good, but u get some idea....
    • Unsu...

      Re: cardboard!

      Tue, January 22, 2008 - 4:48 PM
      I'm wondering if these shelters are even made to be reassembled. I can see the tabs breaking off, bends in the wrong places, and general decay of the medium after two or three exposures to the elements. There are poly-vinyl (plastic) cardboard equivalents which would repel water. Maybe one made of those with some reinforced connectors/tabs.

      As far as a shelter for homeless (on the street, not displaced. like N.O.) I would steer away from anything more complicated than a simple triangle or box. A lot of homeless are either mentally challenged or drug/alcohol addicted. I have lived on the street with these folks. I'm not speaking for all, but certainly a surprising majority.

      • Unsu...

        Re: cardboard!

        Tue, January 22, 2008 - 7:13 PM
        Jelly, I would very sincerely be interested in that experience you had, living among the homeless. What percentage would you say were druggies vs. handicapped vs. quite normal but honestly down on luck temporarily? In what area was this?
        • Re: cardboard!

          Tue, January 22, 2008 - 10:10 PM
          I question the sense of a lot of these temporary houses, the trailers from katrina are a perfect fiasco example, a more practical portable housing unit for someone with few resources is a $500 van cause it really can move and many folks have some mechanical skills. Right now many homeless have figured out that many foreclosed houses will eventually get slated for demolition, so they are trying to get some use out of 'em. I think the best government program would focus on salvaging the worth out of many of these and figurring out which of the persistently homeless could actually make a go at homesteading and being capable of maintaining a house for a long period of time. I heard an estimate of 200,000 homes that will eventually have to be torn down for all the wrong reasons.
        • Unsu...

          Re: cardboard!

          Wed, January 23, 2008 - 5:16 PM
          On Tue, January 22, 2008 - 7:13 PM, A Thousand Good Intentions wrote:

          >>What percentage would you say were druggies vs. handicapped vs. quite normal but honestly down on luck temporarily?

          OK, I'm sure there is more accurate census data available. I also have to group together alcoholics and "druggies." Maybe 60 -70% drug/alcohol based, 15-20% handicapped (thank Regan for that number), leaving 10-15% for down on your luck. (*Rough Approximations*)

          As you might easily imagine, there is a LOT of bleed-over in these 'groups' and I'd say there is a fair chance that any given individual would fit into two, or even all three.

          As far as, all over. I been a traveler a long time. It'd be easier to name places I haven't hung out on the street. Nowhere north of: Jersey, Chicago, or Bend, Oregon. So the excludes a lot of major urban areas with large populations of homeless. Fact is, bro. You got 'em in your town. Every city has them. Find the soup kitchens or the food boxes and charity pantries, you've got to see for yourself.

    • ant
      offline 0

      Re: cardboard!

      Wed, January 23, 2008 - 11:03 AM
      Date of the article is 1976.

      Inflation will have bumped that $62 price tag up quite a bit...
  • Re: cardboard!

    Mon, January 28, 2008 - 11:07 AM
    Any way to use cardboard straight out of a baler as building material? I always see large bales of cardboard going to waste and not being recycled. I can see this being bad fill but there should be a way to stabilize it so that it can be more dependable. If you can use the size of the box baler it would be very easy to be resourceful and find a way to process them without finding new equipment or transporting them much cause every large dock facility usually has one baler in use. You just pick-up and if you can make arrangements at each dock as to how you would like it to be baled you'd have it easy.
    • Unsu...

      Re: cardboard!

      Mon, January 28, 2008 - 12:16 PM
      you jogged my memory. it seems that i saw somewhere that someone was using the BALES INTACT and stacked them like large stone blocks and then stuccoed over them. but i'm sure it was 20 years ago. maybe a member can find reference to it.
      • Re: cardboard!

        Mon, January 28, 2008 - 1:53 PM
        yeah I'm kinda thinking bales of cardboard is a bit of a clunker, at best a bad straw bale that's twice as heavy. But there's no straw bales where I'm working only cardboard ones, lotsa cardboard bales. Certainly three inches of tacked up cardboard then stuccoed wouldn't be terrible only a bit combustable.

        Altho mass cardboard forms could fuse with the rest of the discussion on homeless profiles, I see the material to make up many lifelike homeless people forms. If set up in a park in the right way I'm sure they would attract pigeons, drunks, donations, and churchworkers wanting to help. Just like the cardboard bales I'm not sure why I would want to do that tho. Perhaps it would be great advertising for the cardboard buildings. Nevermind that's not going anywhere.
        • Unsu...

          Re: cardboard!

          Mon, January 28, 2008 - 11:15 PM
          straw bales are considered non-combustible due to their density and the lack of air inside to fuel combustion. for the same reason, i would reason that cardboard bales would be as well. Especially if they were soaked in some sort non-flammable adhesive (elmers glue?) even better if they were baled soaked in it then they could be cut into shapes, too.

          (apologies if that was suggested in a link, didn't have time to read them.)

  • Re: cardboard!

    Sat, June 6, 2009 - 2:27 PM

    Cardboard Yurt in our Photos section:
    • Re: cardboard!

      Sat, June 6, 2009 - 2:44 PM

      I'm still so intrigued with the idea of building with cardboard, in part because there's just so damned much of it around, and it's one of the few materials that people will still give you for free!

      I haven't had time to do any recent research on the topic (too many other irons in the fire), but I confess to having a real fondness for cardboard, LOL. I've used it in some sheds that had slotted walls, to keep out blowing rain, and it worked great, untreated. Just got a little worn-looking, and warped after a couple of years. But did hold up. Obviously, that's only exposed to intermittent weather, for relatively short periods of time (though some snow probably did blow against it and sit for weeks at a time). I always seem to keep some cardboard on hand for just such uses, and occasionally something will come up---- I'll need to grab a big folded box and use it as a ground cover when I have to crawl under the car to check or repair something. It always reminds me what great stuff cardboard is!
      Lightweight, portable, foldable, durable (relatively), keeps out wind, strong (relatively)........ .
      • Re: cardboard!

        Tue, July 21, 2009 - 4:57 PM
        Unfortunately, the article doesn't have photos. :(


        "Cardboard Homes Could Solve Africa's Housing Woes

        Hamburg, June 23 (DPA) Building homes out of cardboard may be the way to resolve Africa's housing shortage and recycle precious resources during the 21st century, according to German scientists.

        Prototype super-durable cardboard houses have already been built and are resisting the rain and cold weather of northern Germany. Enquiries are coming in from all over the world, and the designer, engineer Gerd Niemoeller, is making appearances on German television news programmes.

        "The problem is not the demand," Niemoeller told RTL television. "The demand is out there. The problem is only in meeting the demand and gearing up production to full speed."

        Niemoeller calls his breakthrough the low-cost Universal World House, a prefabricated design built from thin, strong panels made from a honeycomb of polymer resin-soaked paper. His company near Hamburg supplies the machine to build the panels plus the raw materials to the client, who then makes them locally.

        Houses have 36 square metres of floor space, the size of a modest one-bedroom apartment.

        But the whole house weighs less than a standard car - just 800 kg, including the foundation block.

        "Without the foundation block, it's only 400 kilos," Niemoeller explained.

        The house costs only $5,000 and can be erected on-site by one workman in one day.

        The one-storey house, primarily intended for emergency shelters or to replace slum housing, was designed by a team of German researchers and experts which included architect Dirk Donath, from the Bauhaus University in Weimar, and structural engineer Greg Hardie who helped realise the all-paper Japanese Pavilion at the Hanover World's Fair a few years ago.

        Orders already have come in from clients in Africa, according to Niemoeller.

        With the global economy in recession and with natural resources such as wood in short supply in many developing countries, there is increasing interest in the potential of paper and cardboard within construction when combined with new 21st century bonding, cutting and structural techniques.

        Although lacking the tensile strength of wood or metal, paper and cardboard's key assets are that they are recycled and recyclable, according to Hardie, who worked on the Japanese Pavilion at the 2000 Hanover Expo.

        "There are stronger and stiffer materials, but the rationale at Hanover was that we were using something that was recycled and could be recycled back into itself," he says. "If you can utilise post-consumer waste, there is a place for paper as a construction


        The breakthrough came with Niemoeller's revolutionary method of honeycomb cardboard soaked in polymer resins. Resembling a honeycomb wafer biscuit, this structural design has been a mainstay in aircraft and yacht design for decades, but not in housing.

        "Up until now honeycomb structural construction elements have been produced primarily from aluminium. But that of course entails a local industrial capacity which is costly and very energy-intensive - which is unaffordable in the Third World," says Niemoeller.

        That's where his "paper house" comes in.

        "People want to stay in their own countries. It's only the dire circumstances of poverty which force them to become refugees," he says. "The changing climate will only exacerbate this trend critically, unless we can come up with alternatives."

        Niemoeller uses cellulose, primarily from recycled paper, which is soaked in polymer resins. The cellulose mass is subjected to extreme heat and pressure and is formed into wafer-like honeycomb structural elements.

        Each honeycomb is a mini-vacuum which helps to hold the panel together and increase tensile strength.

        "If you put a nail in the wall, you damage only one single honeycomb without damaging the vacuum properties of the surrounding honeycombs," says the 58-year-old engineer from Luebeck, Germany.

        "A 4-centimetre-thick wall has the tensile strength of a 40-centimetre-thick conventional compressed board wall," he says.

        Taking reporters on a tour of the two-room prototype houses, Niemoeller admits that certain amenities are lacking. There is no heating or electricity.

        "Our house is built to what we call passive housing standards," he says. "That is to say, it makes no demands on the environment in terms of fuel or water resources."

        The idea is that the house will be used in places were mud-huts or corrugated tin sheds provide shelter in shanty towns on the fringes of large African conurbations.

        "In these conditions, there is no public water supply and no public utilities. People slaughter their animals and cook outside at any rate," Niemoeller says.

        The house is designed to provide sleeping space for several persons, plus a rudimentary kitchen, some shelving, a table, benches, a covered porch and separate shower and toilet.

        "People can even slaughter their domestic animals and clean the meat in the adjoining shower," says Donath, a professor.

        "One wall of the kitchen can be levered upwards to provide a large egress to the house on hot days," he says.

        Niemoeller's company, The Wall AG, is registered in Switzerland, but the production facility is near Hamburg in northern Germany.

        The prefab production machinery is constructed there for shipment to clients around the world, who then make their own houses locally, reducing costs even further.

        "Each machine can produce 1,500 houses and we will have over 50 people making the machinery," Niemoeller says. "The world needs 100 million affordable houses so we will have our hands full." "
        • Re: cardboard!

          Sun, January 10, 2010 - 10:51 PM

          From Wired Magazine article by Jenna Wortham

          Article and two photos found here:

          "Origami House — Simple, Yet Effective

          Short-term shelters often stay in place longer than intended. Which is why father-and-daughter team Daniel and Mia Ferrara came up with the Global Village Shelters. These flat-packed cardboard houses are elegant, portable and cost-effective. Units arrive with easy diagrams for construction, and require only simple tools for building. They can last for several years in a variety of climates.

          Each sheet of corrugated cardboard is laminated for water resistance and is fire-retardant. The sheets lie flat for transport, and the structures arrive ready for assembly in less than an hour. A 67-square-foot version with a maximum height of 7.5 feet costs just $550 per unit. Variations on the design can serve as longer-term homes, rural health clinics and even latrines."

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