This paper presents the preliminary research works on a potential seismic isolation method that makes use of scrap rubber tires for the protection of low-to-medium-rise buildings. The method involves mixing shredded rubber tire particles with soil materials and placing the mixtures around building foundations, which provides a function similar to that of a cushion. Meanwhile, the stockpiling of scrap tires is a significant threat to our environment, and the engineering community has been looking for long-term viable solutions to the recycling and reuse of rubber. A finite element program has been developed for modeling the time-domain dynamic responses of soil-foundation-structure system, by which the effectiveness and robustness of the proposed method have been evaluated. In general, the structural responses, in terms of acceleration and inter-story drift, can be reduced by 40-60%. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.