Plans were unveiled today to build an ultra-green housing estate in Brighton using 15,000 old car tyres. The 16-home development would be constructed as a series of so called Earthships - a radical idea that involves using recycled tyres as building materials.

The developers, Biotecture, claim the homes will be so energy efficient they will have no utility bills. It submitted a planning application today to build the estate on a site overlooking the Brighton marina.

The move comes after the firm built two Earthship prototypes in Fife in Scotland and Stanmer in Sussex to demonstrate the potential of the idea.

Earthships are built by stacking up tyres, which are then packed with earth and recycled rubbish, and then plastered over. The mass of the walls is harnessed to heat and cool the homes.

The Brighton project has been labelled the Lizard, to reflect this natural way of controlling temperature. The homes, if built, will also collect their own water and be powered by solar panels and wind turbines.

"People love the idea," said Daren Howarth, Biotecture's development director. "We have already received around 100 expressions of interest from buyers." If the estate gets the go ahead from Brighton and Hove council, the homes are expected to fetch between £250,000 and £350,000 each. Some might also be available for rent through a housing association.

Biotecture are optimistic that the scheme will gain approval because the council helped develop the Stanmer prototype on council-owned land. But it has yet to secure financial backing for the estate.

The plans are currently on show at Ecobuild 2006 - a sustainable building exhibition in Earls Court. The homes offer a way of tackling two of Britain's biggest environmental concerns - the growing waste mountain of discarded tyres and the high levels of carbon emissions from housing. Mr Howarth pointed out that the UK is currently planning to burn 40m tyres, each at great environmental cost. He said: "A successful development in Brighton could pave the way for dozens of Earthship colonies around the UK. It's a very powerful, iconic building concept that has the potential to revolutionise the way we live."

The Earthship idea was devised by the architect Michael Reynolds 20 years ago. Some 3,000 have been constructed worldwide, many in Taos, New Mexico.


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