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Have you ever wondered, with a slight twinge of environmental guilt, how many soda and beer cans you’ve consumed in your lifetime? What would a stack of those cans look like?

Architect Richard Van Os Keuls went beyond wondering. Van Os Keuls lives in a 1953 brick tract house, on to which he built a 230 sq. foot addition on to the back. The nearly-finished plywood and insulation board structure was covered with building paper, waiting to be sided or otherwise finished. He found bricks too expensive, and didn't want the usual siding alternatives. After some thought and consideration, Van Os Keuls decided to try a new medium no architect and none of his clients had used before -- flattened aluminum soda and beer cans.

Van Os Keuls says his initial motivation wasn’t all about being eco-friendly. He was simply looking for an inexpensive way to cover his house. He remembered years ago picking up a flattened can by the side of the road and liking the looks of it.

So, he set to work finding, cleaning, and crushing cans and then securing them in place with long nails. He quickly found out this was not an easy process! He prepared up to 12 cans at a time, taking pains not to place two cans of the same color side-by-side. Most of the cans he collected came from friends and by scouring local recycling centers. But sometimes he resorted to buying a case of a certain type of soda (Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda in chartreuse cans) just for its color. "Too much of any one thing gets boring. I eased into the idea that I should try to get beer, juice and soda cans from different countries," he says. "I looked for interesting graphics as well as a variety of colors."

Don’t underestimate Van Os Keuls labor of love, by any means. It will take 22,000 flattened and nailed cans to cover his addition entirely, and although he started the project in the year 2000, he still has 2000 cans to go!

Although some clients have expressed interest in this innovative technique, Van Os Keuls says he does not plan to do it commercially until can-washing and flattening becomes mechanized. Until then, this process is simply too time-consuming to be profitable. Van Os Keuls says the idea might have some application for low-cost housing. "It's probably too wacky for the middlebrows," he says. "Maybe it would appeal to the green crowd."

But if anyone can make it profitable, this Can-Do architect can!

At this time, these can/tiles are not commercially available, but of course, you could always make your own!?

Article written by M.B.Roberts / Issue 82 - September 4007
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