It could be argued that most building materials are recycled: wood, brick, and stone, after all, are just reuses of other materials. But today, driven by economic and environmental forces as well as aesthetic considerations, builders are experimenting with a wide variety of recycled and reclaimed materials – wood used in previous buildings, discarded shipping containers, cans, bottles, tires, and phone books. Many modern buildings make use of just about anything that might provide shelter, insulation, or decoration.
Advocates of recycled materials are also promoting an approach called “deconstruction.” Rather than demolishing a building, architects and builders dismantle it so that elements such as wood beams, flooring, and fixtures can be used again. This approach offers an environmental “two-fer”: it keeps the demolished building out of a landfill, and it reduces the carbon footprint of new structures.