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About 12 years ago, Dan Phillips started Phoenix Commotion, a construction business in his hometown, Huntsville, Tex., where he builds low-income housing out of salvaged items.
Thousands of picture frame corners were used to create the ceiling at left. Mr. Phillips said, "A frame shop was getting rid of old samples and I was there waiting."
The bases of wine bottles function like stained glass on the top of a Dutch door.
"You can't defy the laws of physics or building codes," Mr. Phillips said, "but beyond that, the possibilities are endless."
Cattle bones are also used to form address numbers.
Mr. Phillips used old shingles, arranged by color, to build the roof of what he calls "the storybook house."
Mr. Phillips oversees employees building a house. "I think mobile homes are a blight on the planet," he said. "Attractive, affordable housing is possible and I'm out to prove it."
So far, he has built 14 homes on lots either purchased or received as a donation. A self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber, Mr. Phillips said 80 percent of the materials are salvaged from other construction projects, hauled out of trash heaps or just picked up from the side of the road.
Mr. Phillips's houses use scrap wood for siding. City officials worked closely with him to set up a recycled building materials warehouse where builders, demolition crews and building product manufacturers can drop off items rather than throwing them in a landfill.
One worker, Tom McKinney, applies mirror shards to a wall.
Salvaged wine corks, which are easy to come by, provide an inexpensive form of cork flooring. "We have some heavy drinkers in town," Mr. Phillips said.
Mr. Phillips created a counter out of slices of osage orange wood, a ubiquitous material in East Texas that many builders find difficult to use.
"If the walls are wonky, it will be my fault but also my pride," she said.
Kristie Stevens rents one of Mr. Phillips's houses. She is working with him on building a house of her own nearby, since Mr. Phillips requires the eventual owner of a house to help with its construction.
At left, the osage orange wood is used as railing.
Broken tiles are brought together to make up a bathroom floor.
A wood-burning stove from an old ship found a new home in Mr. Phillips's "tree house."
A chair's back is fashioned out of cattle bones.
Dan Phillips has become a celebrity in his home town of Huntsville, Texas, for building 14 fully functional recycled houses out of construction waste and scraps. The 64-year-old constructor has lived a varied life, working as an intelligence officer in the army, a college dance instructor, antique dealer and even as a puzzle maker. He has spent the last 12 years building affordable houses for the poor, using discarded materials. Anything durable people throw away is a potentially useful building material for Dan Phillips. He runs down to construction sites and landfills and takes away almost everything they throw away. His houses are not all the same, he builds each one with the materials at hand, but he views that as a good thing. Dan Phillips recycling philosophy has changed the way the entire community sees the recycling process and he has even been contacted by companies who wanted advice on how to build recycled warehouses. Dan has been profiled by The New York Times and has given an interesting Ted Talk that you can watch below.