And because it’s monolithic, Saulnier adds, the more that’s built onto it, the stronger it gets. “With conventional construction, you have to beef everything up as you build because it’s ultimately weaker as you put more on it. That’s not the case in our type of construction,” he says.
Saulnier, a draftsman by trade, did the 3D drawings and sent them for permit approval. “The building inspector had no clue how to judge us on what we were doing for approvals,” he says. “So, I had a structural engineer look at my drawings and stamp them. He said, ‘You might be hunting butterflies with shotguns in some parts of the house.’”
That’s because the recycled house not only achieves an R30 insulation value, but has been tested to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. To prove the material was up to the latter task, the team took an 8 x 8-foot wall section, weighing a mere 80 pounds, to a hurricane test lab in Ontario. The lab staff was tasked with testing the panel at 200 mph winds, exceeding the minimum wind strength of a typical Category 5 hurricane, to push the panel to its breaking point.
“They took our panel by hand, loaded it into a test chamber and all looked at each other, thinking, ‘If we can lift it, we’re going to break it,’” Saulnier recalls. Yet three weeks later they emailed JD Composites to say they couldn’t break the panel.
That strength is critical for a structural material, but PET is also a well-known insulator. Using a foam-based structural component means insulation is built into every space.
Conventional construction requires 2-x-6 framing lumber every 16 inches and R20 insulation in the walls. “But those studs every 16 inches act as thermal breaks and reduce your R20 to an R13,” Saulnier explains. “Because our house is a monolithic structure, there are no thermal bridges anywhere to bring the cold from outside in. Our R30 is a true R30, which is almost three times as efficient as the house I live in.”
As if that weren’t enough, Saulnier adds, “Since it’s made from recycled plastic, there’s no off-gassing.”
In many ways, the beauty of the house comes down to the environmental benefits. Among its other green features, the home’s brown exterior is made of 99% recycled aluminum. The subfloor directly above the concrete slab is also made of ¾-inch recycled PET plastic, while the kitchen backsplash is composed of 100% refurbished wood.