2 Recycled Building Materials

In a world of finite resources, the potential to reuse obsolete or unneeded material is inspiring creative new solutions for a built environment we can live in and live with.

In this clothing store, discarded paperback books were used to create a large dressing room with a small environmental footprint. Photo Credit: MGA | Michael Green Architecture

A closer look reveals the brick-like construction of the reclaimed books, creating a circular area at the center of the shop. Photo Credit: MGA | Michael Green Architecture

An alternative to demolition, “deconstruction” is the process of reclaiming materials from buildings so they can be used again. Photo Credit: BMRA.org

Salvaged wood and other materials can be reused in new construction projects, keeping buildings from the landfill and reducing the need for new materials. Photo Credit: BMRA.org

Recycled Building Materials

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.