Architecture’s afterlife –

Dist. of Col. (Washington DC), USA – Ian Volner is a writer for Architect, the magazine for the American Institute of Architects. His article ‘Architecture’s afterlife’ discusses the ongoing obsession of recycling obsolete building materials over reclamation and salvage, and the processes and costs involved in getting into the reuse game.

Volner begins by painting a picture of the building industry today in the US, with forty percent of solid waste attributed to construction, he says ‘not only rubble and rotting beams, but also countless odds and ends from new construction such as cast off nails and packaging’.

Buildings Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) executive director Ann Niklin adds ‘ “We say it [recycling] is all very well and good, but we also say many of these [materials] could simply be salvaged”.’

There is a positive statement from architects who are using reclaimed materials consistently in their projects.

‘ “We’re really starting to get plugged into, in a much more architectural way, the stream of these materials,” says David Dowell, AIA, a principal of El Dorado Architects, also of Kansas City, Mo. Since expanding to include general contracting services, the firm has been working reuse deeper into its practice.’

‘For the Finn Lofts, a 2010 mixed-use residential and retail renovation and addition in Wichita, Kan., the firm didn’t have far to look for high-grade scrap: the old wood floors of the existing structure were turned into interior cladding, achieving just the right look for the project’s lighting and spatial plan. Once the initial design is in place, “you can weave in the sustainability story,” Dowell says, reassuring the client that the reused materials will serve the project and the environment well.’

Volner also discusses the costs of dismantling against demolition and then ends with a section on the common sense approach ‘On at least one subject, however, the USGBC (US green building council) does take a stand that seems to be fairly definitive. The Materials & Resources credit offering the most potential points- -up to five in LEED Core & Shell (green building rating system for designers, builders, developers and new building owners who want to address sustainable design)- – comes not from the inventive deployment of previously used materials, but from the adaptive reuse of entire existing structures; that is, leaving original walls, floors, and roof intact. The message is well-taken: If architects really want to look out for the ecosystem, they should start by making the most of what they already have.’

Architect Magazine: Architecture’s afterlife

The Finn Lofts

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