During a conversation with a friend of mine who lives in the southern US, I learned that her cousin built her entire home out of materials she collected from old buildings. By salvaging and reusing materials, my friend’s cousin was able to construct her own home on a very strict budget.
Ever the green artist, this thought intrigued and excited me. Not only is it eco-friendly, but with rent and mortgage costs increasing, the thought that it is possible to reuse building materials to construct a comfortable home was a revelation.
Why Reuse Building Materials?
Using reclaimed materials is one of the most sustainable ways to acquire materials for a home or building. Not only is it conservative on the pocket book, but reusing building materials saves resources, conserves landfill space, and prevents deforestation.
Preserving Useful Supplies
In order to resuse building materials, a building must be deconstructed in a way that maintains the integrity of the supplies. This process is different from demolition in which a site is cleared quickly and by any means. Deconstruction takes into account a building’s life cycle and aims to give materials a new life once the building is no longer in use.
Commonly reused building materials include wood, fixtures, sinks, bricks, windows, and cement. Many proponents of recycled materials claim the reused supplies add a sense of history and art to a new structure. It may also provide an opportunity to reuse building materials that were made in an era where standards of craftsmanship were very high. However, construction materials aren’t the only things recycled into homes and structures.
One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s…Temple?
Structures made from reused materials come in many beautiful shapes and forms. There are modern homes made from shipping containers, a Buddhist temple in Thailand made from over one million beer bottles, Aluminum cans upcylced into aluminum siding, and silos made into comfortable prefab homes. All of these structures make something beautiful and functional out of, well, garbage.
Old barns and condemned buildings are full of value if they are responsibly deconstructed and reused. Bottles and cans that fill so many trash and recycling bins can become an affordable and beautiful home or greenhouse. Reuse building material; it’s sustainable and artistic, and it allows quality construction supplies to live again.