Grant Parish, La., Man Constructing House From Recycled Materials

Fri July 10, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Robert Morgan




PROSPECT, La. (AP) It’s amazing what someone can do with some old tires, discarded doors, antique windows and a lot of red clay dirt.

Just take a look at what Randy Chenevert has done in south Grant Parish with a variety of discarded items, an idea and a trip to Taos, N.M.

Chenevert, of Ball, is in the midst of constructing an earthship — a house built by recycling discarded items, including used vehicle tires and aluminum drink cans, as well as a desire to make something “green.’’ The home is in Grant Parish just north of the Rapides Parish line and west of the communities of Prospect and Creola.

“I started construction Jan. 1, 2004. I’ve got the plumbing working,’’ he said, adding what he would like now is a few donations to help offset the cost of a roof.

“They tell me it’ll cost $7,000 to put a simple slant roof on the open structure,” he said.

To date, he estimated, he has spent about $6,000 on the 30-by-30-ft. structure.

“I went to Taos, N.M. That’s where they build earthships,’’ he said.

But a cursory look at the Internet revealed structures also have been erected in a number of places, including Durango, Colo., and Nashville. Web sites include real estate companies offering earthship homes for sale and proud owner-builders’ sites showing off their homes from start to finish.

Chenevert said architect Michael Reynolds has been building earthship homes in New Mexico since the 1960s.

Although Chenevert’s structure is incomplete, he has a vision that he can readily convey. He has envisioned a one-room structure that will be heated with solar energy and cooled by the shade.

Water will be provided by rain, drained from the roof, piped into a hot tub, filtered through a swimming pool filter and pumped into a tower to be warmed by the sun, he said.

He said he has already gotten his pots and pans hot enough to cook meals.

Proudly pointing to a shaded outdoor bar, Chenevert said, “Of course, we had to build a bar to get the strength to do all this.’’

His bar is constructed of lumber milled by a friend for whom he worked three days, helping him mill lumber for a house he was building. It also has wood that he picked up, literally, from various locations.

Chenevert said he barters for whatever he can, if he can’t find it, such as 70 antique windows. Strings of colored lights that adorn the bar were found wrapped around a discarded Christmas tree, he said.

The father of four children ranging in age from 6 to 19 years, Chenevert laughed when asked why he decided to build his earthship.

“I have a house in Ball with my wife,’’ he said, adding the house is mortgaged.

“When I’m done with this, I’m through,’’ he said.