Olivia Collier and Maslin Mellick, 2022 master of architecture graduates from the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) in Denver, found inspiration for their senior capstone project in in the local tire landfill, called "Tire Mountain". Their project, which involved creating a "Clean-Tech Manufacturing Facility for Sustainable Building Products," was awarded the Colorado Green Building Guild (CGBG) Student Project of the Year.

Although they initially researched nature's byproducts and society's waste to develop sustainable building materials, they ultimately focused on tires, resulting in their innovative invention and design.

Both Collier and Mellick wanted to work on a project that would have a meaningful impact on their area. They decided to focus on landfills and found inspiration in the trash at Colorado Tire Recycling (CTR).

They learned that there are about 80 million used tires at a tire monofil, which is a huge issue that needs to be addressed.

After researching the topic, the team realized there was work to be done in two major areas. The first: advocating for policy change involving tire waste. The second: incentivizing another end-market use for the tires. Their solution—which involves devulcanization, a process of recycling rubber by breaking down the toxins and sulfur components—creates a new building material with all the positive properties of rubber without the toxic off-gassing.


Presentation materials, including everything from raw materials to finished tiles | Photo by University of Colorado Denver.

Their invention, coined “Tire Tiles,” would come in two styles: “Solid” and “Void.” Solid could be used in colder climates for wall assembly that would provide thermal, waterproofing, and acoustic benefits. Void, which includes gaps and spaces, would be used in warmer climates, for breathable wall assembly and solar shading.

Collier and Mellick hope that their work will inspire others to contribute to closing the loop on tires by meeting with experts to inform safer and healthier uses for them. They are currently working as architectural designers and plan to continue their tire advocacy work.

Read the full article on the University of Colorado Denver's website.