Sustainability is on the rise in architecture, with several innovative uses of reclaimed waste in building design. Reclaimed waste is considered by many the key to making more sustainable buildings and even reducing the amount of waste in landfills around the world. This includes everything from wood to plastic bottles.
Architects and designers are beginning to recognize the value of these materials in architecture by integrating reclaimed waste into new buildings in creative ways. This is leading to more affordable building options and more environmentally friendly approaches to design and construction.
Reusing Waste as Bricks and Concrete
In Nairobi, Kenya, young inventor Nzambi Matee is creating both jobs and sustainable roads for her community. Her company, Gjenge Makers, uses ground-up plastic waste to create bricks that are used to make roads, sidewalks, and more. Even more impressive, the reclaimed waste bricks are seven times stronger than concrete.
Gjenge Makers is among the newest in a growing number of companies around the world that are removing plastic waste from oceans and landfills to use in construction and architecture. Over 300 million metric tons of plastic waste are produced around the world every year. Very little of this waste is able to be recycled, leading many sustainability researchers to look into other ways of reusing plastic.
Even the bricks and concrete from old buildings can be reclaimed for constructing new structures. A prime example of this is a house in Rotterdam by Dutch firm Architectuur Maken. The pristine bricks of this house were made from 15 metric tons of reclaimed rubble, all compacted into fresh building materials. It is one of a growing number of modern, designer buildings constructed almost exclusively out of reclaimed materials.
Deconstruction and Reuse With Reclaimed Wood
Among the most popular trends in sustainable building is reclaimed wood. More and more people are beginning to recognize the aesthetic value of reclaimed wood in furniture, home decor, and building design. It is highly flexible, too, popular for creating a rustic, cozy look or a modern, minimalist aesthetic. This has led to a booming consumer market of reclaimed wood furniture and flooring, which helps reduce the amount of virgin wood used each year.
Reclaimed wood is a valuable building material, as well. The Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus was constructed in part with over 25,000 linear feet of wood reclaimed from film sets around Atlanta. This is a great example of green building design that uses the talents and market of the local community to construct sustainable buildings.
Projects like the Kendeda Building are inspiring more organizations and policymakers to consider reuse ordinances like that which is already in place in Portland, Oregon. These ordinances require older homes to be deconstructed rather than demolished, allowing their valuable materials, especially wood, to be reclaimed and reused on new projects. This will reduce the amount of waste produced in construction and help local communities.
Using Bottles and Cans in Architecture
Over 580 billion plastic bottles were produced globally in 2021 alone. Plastic takes an infamously long time to decompose, so this waste won’t simply disappear in a few years like paper might. However, green building designers are taking advantage of plastic’s resilience and using it to create durable, sustainable structures.
For example, the non-profit organization Hug It Forward is helping communities in developing countries create safe, well-insulated schools while also removing garbage from the environment. They have successfully created 116 new schools around Central America, using plastic bottles stuffed with plastic waste to build insulted, durable walls that have changed communities and lives.
Reusing plastic bottles in architecture is not limited to schools, though. The stunning EcoARK building in Taipei, Taiwan, was built using over 1.5 million plastic bottles. This innovative structure is resistant to forces of nature, such as fires, typhoons, and earthquakes. It is even powered by solar energy. Buildings like the EcoARK could set the standard for tomorrow’s architectural design, providing durable shelter for low costs while also offering sleek, innovative aesthetics.
Reclaimed Waste as a Green Design Movement
Reclaimed waste is revolutionizing construction and architecture. The whole world is beginning to see the value of reclaimed materials, which have an important role to play in building new houses, apartment buildings, offices, schools, and more. These materials can do so much more than pile up in landfills. Using reclaimed materials in green building design brings communities together and helps heal the planet at the same time.