Decoding Design

How to recycle a 747 jet

How to recycle a 747 jet

Posting in Architecture

In Malibu California, an architect and his client take aluminum recycling to extremes.

A Santa Monica architect decided to use an entire 747 jet to build a client's home...and his client agreed. To grant his client's wishes for a feminine, curvy, and eco-friendly house, David Hertz of Studio of Environmental Architecture recycled an airplane into a 4,000 square foot residence in Malibu named the Wing House.

Hertz originally intended to use only wings of an airplane, but he discovered that buying an entire plane made economical sense. The aircraft held enough raw materials to build almost the entire home. One wing alone is over 2,500 square feet and the cargo space makes up 17,000 cubic feet of space.

The airplane was obtained from a scrap yard in California where retired planes are sold for the price of aluminum. The giant structures come with the benefits of being prefabricated and pre-engineered. At a purchase price of $35,000 and a yield of 4.5 million metal pieces, the 747 was a relative bargain even after taking into account the cost of transporting the pieces via helicopter.

If you think security lines for traveling are bad, consider the clearance needed to build a house from a decommissioned 747. The permitting process took about 18 months to get approval from 17 government agencies. The permits were mostly for the huge amount of infrastructure work including an access road, but the project's roof also required registration with the Federal Aviation Administration, so that pilots flying overhead don't mistake the home for an aircraft crash site.

Per Hertz's original design idea, the two wings make up the roof of the main house. Other parts of the airplane have been spread over seven different structures; for example, the first class cabin deck makes up the guest house, and the cargo hold forms the roof of the 'Animal Barn', and in true California fashion, the cockpit has become the 'Meditation Pavilion'.

The site is the former property of Tony Duquette, the eclectic American designer who had built numerous 'pavilions' incorporating found objects on his 55 acres. A fire in 1995 had destroyed many of the structures but the existing concrete pads and retaining walls were able to be reused for the Wing House and its accessory buildings.

The Wing House is a creative and giant example of using 100 percent post consumer recycled content in construction.

Images: David Hertz Architects

Share this

Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure