500,000 bottles = 30,000 sq ft building

Monday 19 Nov 2012

WAN interviews Realm of Design on their latest project: a building of recycled glass

The gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas has become a haven for entertainment-seekers. The city sees over 3 million visitors every month but unfortunately with tourists comes an inevitable amount of waste and each weekend, the Las Vegas Strip hotels amass 500,000 beer bottles which are often land-filled.

Scott McCombs, founder of Realm of Design, has come up with an ingenious plan. McCombs can transform these immense volumes of glass into an innovative construction material using 100% recycled glass aggregate and 99.8% renewable materials from Fly Ash to create GreenStone, an eco-friendly alternative to concrete.

The first project created using GreenStone for its exterior building façade has recently completed in Las Vegas. A 30,000 sq ft manufacturing facility adjacent to Realm of Design’s showroom, the project uses 500,000 beer bottles collected from hotels on the strip which equates to 290,000lbs of recycled glass or 400,000 cub yd of landfill space. WAN’s Katerina Hojgrova took a tour of the new facility and had a few questions for Carla Di Blasi from the Realm of Design team about the concept of GreenStone…

How did Scott get the idea to Build the Morrow Royal Pavilion?

The idea to build something with recycled glass came about when Scott realized how much glass was being thrown away and ultimately land-filled while he was at a Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip watching bottles be thrown away. He also knew that glass takes more than 4,000 years to decompose so he wanted to build something big and show that glass could be recycled and utilized in big projects (and small). Scott also knew that the Colosseum in Italy was built with Ash so he wanted to make a building product (and ultimately a building) that utilized Glass and Fly Ash. After much trial and error to ensure a strong, lasting, reliable product, Scott formulated the material which became known as GreenStone. The actual Morrow Royal Pavilion design was inspired by the Swarkestone Hall Pavilion in England which was used in an infamous Rolling Stones photo shoot.

How did it become a reality?

Scott is a very determined man and has a very supportive family. He can figure anything out. With a background in business, construction, architecture, artistry, designing and engineering, he knew he could make the building a reality. It was also a time that the building industry came to a halt in Las Vegas so Realm of Design's business was extremely slow. So with the effort to keep his staff employed, building the Morrow Royal Pavilion gave him the opportunity to keep them busy. It was definitely a family project too - everybody worked hard and played a role in making the building become a reality.

What challenges did you face and how were these overcome?

Trying to build a building and keeping people employed when business was slow , which translates into low funds, was definitely a challenge. And here in Las Vegas, there are no grants or funds for sustainable projects so the building was self-funded. Scott nick-named the project his Self-Stimulus plan because it was at a time when the Government was giving stimulus money to banks and auto companies help stimulate the economy but none went for sustainable buildings. Because Scott played so many roles and did most of the work himself (along with his family) he was able to construct the building on a budget and at a reasonable cost.

The building's windows were also very challenging. Scott decided to use all individual windows instead of using one single pane of glass. So each individual window has a handmade frame and there are a lot of them! Many of the windows open, as they do in the Swarkestone Hall Pavilion. The doors and gates are also handmade.

How is the glass recycled into an attractive building material?

The glass is obtained from the Las Vegas Strip - mostly beer bottles. It is then physically shoveled into a glass crusher. The crushed glass is then put into a mixture where it is combined with Fly Ash (and a few other secret ingredients) which makes it into a viable aggregate. It can then be poured into panels, molds, or whatever other pieces/ products can utilize the building material. Color can be added while it is being mixed (much like cement).

Is this something unique to Las Vegas or is the approach being picked up around the world?

The material and process is unique to Las Vegas for now. Scott owns the newly issued patent on the building material known as Green Architectural Stone AKA ‘GreenStone’. Some international sustainable companies have shown interest in the technology and product but nothing confirmed as of yet.

What is unique to this building?

Well, it is the largest building to be made with recycled glass bottles. The glass can be seen in the building panels purposely. Even though the material can be made to show or not show the glass, Scott chose to expose the glass so that people would see it and know that the glass does exist in the material.

What is the building used for?

The building is currently used to manufacture GreenStone and AgedStone for Realm of Design. It also houses a Cross Fit Gym that the company holds daily classes in. The building is also used for storage. There are even future plans to create a residency within a couple of the towers.

What other sustainable features does the building have?

The foam sheeting/ insulation on the roof is reclaimed from some old buildings in other states. Scott was able to obtain the insulation which would have ended up at a dump and utilize it on the building's roof. And instead of using air conditioning, the building is cooled with Swamp coolers.

What will be the next GreenStone building?

As for now, there isn't a plan for another GreenStone Building but that's not saying there won't be one. However, GreenStone is now being offered and utilized in residential (and commercial) architectural pieces Realm of Design offers such as Fireplace mantels, columns, balustrades, domes, entry facades as well as other architectural products that we custom design and manufacture.

Katerina Hojgrova
World Architecture News

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