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Green Building News

Recycling An Australian McMansion

A group of Australian environmentalists is appealing for the owner of an unwanted McMansion to donate the house for an innovative demolition and recycling project.
Image Credit: Brendel

The Plan: Tear Down a McMansion And Use the Materials to Build Two Small Homes

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — A team of Australian architects and artists has announced a plan to carefully dismantle an existing McMansion and use the salvaged materials to build two small energy-efficient houses on the same site. Team members are now seeking a homeowner willing to donate a McMansion to help the twin causes of environmentalism and performance art.

The activists promise that at the end of the project, dubbed Reincarnated McMansion, both new houses will become the property of the donor of the unwanted monster house. The project has attracted several sponsors, including the Australia Council for the Arts.

The Reincarnated McMansion team envisions creating two small homes with green features. According to the team’s Web site, the plan is to “orientate the new buildings to best engage local climatic conditions to enhance buildings’ and site’s passive thermal performance; to introduce natural ventilation strategies; to introduce passive winter solar gain; to introduce solar hot water and solar power; and to introduce rainwater storage and a grey-water biofiltration system in the form of external garden pools.”

One of the project’s team members is architect Mathieu Gallois. “We’re excited about the reuse of the bricks, tiles, and cement,” said Gallois. “The idea is to crush them into an earthy mix and reuse them for a type of rammed-earth wall.”

Another architect on the team is Tone Wheeler of Sydney. “There are so many houses out there that are just badly built and worn out — big objects with lots of little rooms in them but not much good design,” said Wheeler. “A big house with only two or three people rattling around in it is just not an efficient object or living arrangement. The density of our cities needs to be greatly increased, so we’re anticipating that this project will be a precursor to something that becomes increasingly common in the future.”

In a radio interview, Wheeler was asked whether it wouldn’t be easier to create a duplex by adding another couple of exterior doors and a few more partitions to the McMansion. Explaining the need to start from scratch, Wheeler answered, “Maybe the house of the future will be inside-out, upside-down, and back-to-front. Putting bricks on the outside is really the wrong way around; the bricks should be on the inside for thermal mass. And we should be living upstairs, not downstairs, because the upstairs has more access to sun. And it would be better to put the cars in the back of the house instead of the front. Alternations and additions tend to make these problems worse.”

To learn more about the project, visit

GBA extends thanks to Jon Vara of Energy Design Update for his reporting on the Reincarnated McMansion story.

One Comment

  1. Expert Member
    CARL SEVILLE | | #1

    I love this
    I have recently suggested that we dismantle oversized homes, using the material to build new homes in the space between homes in the suburbs. This will help increase density, making everything more livable. Not unsurprisingly, most of the responses I received from the building industry were negative. Some people suggested that I start with my house - obviously they haven't seen it, as it is ready to be torn down. Keep us posted on the progress of this project.

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