Second Life: Using Recycled Materials For Architecture

Using salvaged stuff not only has a positive environmental impact by reducing waste, it also offers architects materials typically unavailable.

Luke Barley Luke Barley

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, “If all the dimensional lumber used to build the 1.2 million new homes constructed in the United States each year were laid end to end, it would extend 2 million miles, the equivalent of going to the moon and back six and a half times”—a sobering statistic that doesn’t include other building materials.

Dutifully sorting waste, separating the metal and plastic from the paper for different recycling streams is part of modern life. Some areas even have food waste collection for community compost.

Architects and designers are taking notice of the opportunities offered by recycling and reuse. Using salvaged materials not only has a positive environmental impact by reducing waste, it also offers architects materials typically unavailable, such as old growth lumber.

Here are some prescient products and projects using recycled materials for architectural purposes.

Origma Hut, Gary Warner, Sydney, Australia

All materials for this project were brought in a utility vehicle 3 miles down a rough road. The sandstone piers are reused, and the insulation for the building comprises old woolen blankets.

Eco_Alabaster by Ceramica Fioraneseby Ceramics of Italy

These floor and wall tiles use nearly 50% recycled material in the manufacturing process, resulting in a beautiful, ecologically sound product.

Cook Park Amenities, Fox Johnston, Sydney, Australia

The building at Cook Park collects rainwater to use for toilets and other amenities. The facade is clad with recycled materials from the surrounding area.

Urban Retreat™ by Interface

Nine styles of flooring arranged according to patterns, including one that evokes moss-covered rocks on the forest floor. 80% of the material used to fabricate the flooring is recycled, with an impressive 30% of that being post-consumer.

Reall by Carlotta de Bevilacqua, Paolo Dell’Elce by Artemide

The aluminum used in the manufacture of this refined, elegant lamp is recycled.

Maunu Residence, Fung + Blatt Architects, Inc., Altadena, US

Using recycled glass, hardiboard, corrugated steel, and redwood, this understated pool/guest house incorporates sliding doors and an open-floor plan, blurring the distinction between exterior and interior spaces.

Murcia by Refin by Ceramics of Italy

This unique flooring tile is manufactured incorporating 20% post consumer recycled glass from cathode ray television sets and monitors.

Shed No. 8841, Ben LepleyEd Henry, Tucson, US

The steel cladding and wood used in this project are completely recycled and reused.

Hanil Visitors Center & Guest House, Nicholas Locke, Maepo, KR

The entire goal of this project is as a built example of ways to recycle and reuse concrete, one of the worlds most common building materials. The facade is made with both gabion walls, as well as concrete cast with fabric.

greenfield living, minarc, Los Angeles, CA

The exterior panels of this home are fabricated using 30% recycled material. The kitchen cabinetry and furniture is made using recycled automobile tires, providing an imaginative and ecologically savvy design.

Using recycled materials in building is not completely mainstream in the field of architecture. These examples show that being ecologically conscious doesn’t have to impact the design and aesthetic of building projects and products.