VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Pat Hadicht's friends think she lives in a dump, but she's perfectly happy in her Taos, N.M., house built of old car tires, dirt, and empty beverage cans. ''It sounds pretty awful, but I've had it in House Beautiful,'' she says, referring to the home-design magazine.
For those who have mastered recycling plain old newspapers and glass bottles, there is a new frontier -- turning junk into a livable dwelling.
The structures are built by packing discarded car tires with dirt to form 350-pound blocks that are then stacked like bricks to make walls. Builders say the walls are virtually as sturdy as those made from concrete.
Discarded beverage cans are then used to form the interior walls and are finished with an adobe plaster. ''Green'' companies are also making roof tiles from old newspapers and bricks from used tires.
Pioneered in the Southwest under the trade name Earthship, more than 200 such houses have been built in Canada, the United States, Japan, and Bolivia. Canada's province of British Columbia is a major center for recycled home-building.
Like any house-proud suburbanite, owners of recycled homes rave about their bright and comfortable interiors, which often look similar to those in conventional homes.
The exteriors vary from curvy organic designs to the sleek and post-modern. Some styles accentuate the south-facing glass walls used to trap heat and provide maximum light.
Owners of recycled houses have the added bonus of knowing their homes are environmentally friendly and -- best of all --the raw materials are virtually free.
''Basically there is no cost involved for primary materials,'' says Mark Bossert, a British Columbia contractor who started a company called Recycled Tire Homes Ltd.
Recycled houses can be built for half the cost of a conventional home with construction expenses ranging from $18.50 a square foot to $55.55 for a ''luxury'' home, industry analysts say.
While builders of recycled homes admit they sometimes face a tough sell, they say many people like the idea of choosing a house that is environmentally friendly.
''There is a share of our market that is most interested in our product for environmental reasons,'' says Mike Kennaw of Re-Con Building Products Inc., another Vancouver-area company that makes fireproof roofing tiles from recycled newsprint.