Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: the Three R's Rule Applied to Architecture

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: the Three R's Rule Applied to Architecture

As levels of pollutant emissions have increased over the years, awareness has also grown regarding actions that can be taken to minimize the damage caused to the planet. As a way to promote waste reduction or prevention, the 3 R's rule is created: reduce, reuse and recycle. These actions, together with sustainable consumption standards, have been promoted as a means to protect natural resources and minimize waste.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: the Three R's Rule Applied to Architecture - More Images+ 10

The first rule of the 3 R's is Reduction, which is quite broad and can be understood as a reduction in materials, but also in energy consumption, waste, and above all, in the ecological footprint. In architecture, Reduction can be reflected, among other measures, in the use of non-polluting, durable, and recyclable materials; in the use of prefabrication to reduce construction rubble; and in the use of BIM to minimize errors, waste and improve the design and building processes.

Reusing is a concept based on using materials more than once, without being processed, thus requiring no energy. In architecture, reuse can go from reusing materials and construction elements to repurposing structures, a procedure called adaptive reuse.

And lastly, Recycling, which requires the transformation of a material before it can be used again. This means that manufacturing or handcrafting processes that require energy is necessary to allow the material to take on new forms and purposes. Recycling is an alternative to discarded materials that do not qualify for reuse and is often cost-effective compared to the use of conventional materials.

Here are 14 projects around the world, in which at least one of the 3 R's is used either in the design, construction, or lifespan of the building.


Aimerigues Institute / Barceló Balanzó Arquitectes + Xavier Gracia

Aimerigues Institute / Barceló Balanzó Arquitectes + Xavier Gracia. Image: © Simón García

"Reducing the ecological footprint: using non-polluting, durable and easily recyclable materials; using renewable energy; control systems, waste management, and using BIM technology in the design and building process. The classrooms were installed in the building along the Pablo Iglesias street, establishing a boundary without generating any residual space."

From the Territory to the Habitant / tactic-a

From the Territory to the Habitant / tactic-a. Image: © Jaime Navarro

"The floor and walls on the sides were built using traditional techniques and construction materials, while the other elements are modular and can be manufactured in the workshop and only assembled on site. This modularity allows a reduction in manufacturing costs and custom configurations according to the family's needs and resources."

Sen Village Community Center / VTN Architects

Sen Village Community Center / VTN Architects. Image: © Quang Tran

"The skylight also functions to discharge hot air from the top of the roof as the breeze cooled by adjacent pond flows through the building. These passive design methods contribute to reducing energy consumption and keeping the building away from AC use."

Humanscapes Habitat Urban Living / Auroville Design Consultant

Humanscapes Habitat Urban Living / Auroville Design Consultant. Image: © Akshay Arora

"Using local building materials and skills, the residences become a net energy-positive habitat by generating its own energy, using renewable energy. Zero-discharge of water, reduction, and recycling of solid waste, drought-resistant local endemic species landscaping, and growing organic food as a model for urban agriculture would be a hallmark of this project."


Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio

Ningbo Historic Museum / Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio. Image: © Iwan Baan

"The concept of the project was based on the reuse of stones and handcrafted bricks from demolished buildings, resulting in an impressive mix of different types of bricks, stones, and concrete. The in-depth study of Chinese vernacular architecture is also a major aspect behind its success."

The Circular Pavilion / Encore Heureux Architects

The Circular Pavilion / Encore Heureux Architects. © Cyrus Cornut

"The name describes the process, which follows the circular economy principles, according to which ones’ waste becomes others’ resources. Wastes taken from construction sites, erroneous orders, or unused stocks: each of the materials implemented has its own story. 180 wooden doors, deposited during a housing rehabilitation operation in Paris’ 19th district, form the facade. Inside, the isolation uses mineral wool removed from a supermarket roof."

Third Wave Kiosk / Tony Hobba Architects

Third Wave Kiosk / Tony Hobba Architects. Image: © Rory Gardiner

"With sustainability and re-use integral to the outcome, the recycled sheet piles were procured from the 2010/2011 Victorian floods where they were last used for flood protection works along the Murray River to assist in mitigating the devastating water damage experienced by the local river communities during this extreme rain event."

Old Brick New House / Wrzeszcz Architekci

Old Brick New House / Wrzeszcz Architekci. Image: © Przemyslaw Turlej

“Bricks from the old barn were used to create a new facade. The historic material gives the place a unique atmosphere and feeling. The facade consists of four types of brick bonds with different levels of sculpting and transparency. The facade details highlight the house zones. Openwork brick walls let in views and connect them with the surroundings.” 

Maruhiro - Hasami Ceramics Flagship Store / Yusuke Seki

Maruhiro - Hasami Ceramics Flagship Store / Yusuke Seki. Image: © Takumi Ota

“Constructed of 25,000 pieces and in cooperation with numerous pottery factories from Hasami area, the conceptual and experiential focus of the design is a stacked central platform, layers of locally sourced imperfect tableware and poured concrete. As part of his re-valuative design process, Seki revived these flawed pieces, using them to make bricks, and transforming them into new architectural material for this occasion.”


People's Pavilion / bureau SLA + Overtreders W

People's Pavilion / bureau SLA + Overtreders W. Image: © Filip Dujardin

“The pavilion is a design statement of the new circular economy, a 100% circular building where no building materials were lost in construction. The striking colored tiles that made up the Pavilion’s upper facade are from plastic household waste materials collected by Eindhoven residents.”

Hanil Visitors Center & Guest House / BCHO Architects

Hanil Visitors Center & Guest House / BCHO Architects. Image: © Yong Gwan Kim

“Concrete has been broken and recast in various materials creating both translucent and opaque tiles. The gabion wall and fabric formed concrete that constitutes the main façades of the building, was erected first, and the concrete left over from it was recycled in the gabion cages, on the rooftop for insulation from sun, and as a landscape material at the street and around the factory.”

House in La Prosperina / Fabrica Nativa Arquitectura

House in La Prosperina / Fabrica Nativa Arquitectura. Courtesy of Fabrica Nativa Arquitectura

“The front and side walls were finished with translucent polycarbonate recycled sheets providing natural light during the day. At night, the interior light is projected outwards.”

ICEBERG Diving Platform / Bulot+Collins

ICEBERG Diving Platform / Bulot+Collins. Image: Courtesy of Bulot+Collins

“The frame is covered with plywood panels (all the wood was sourced locally) on which are placed several hundred tiles of thermochromic plastic. These tiles were manufactured on-site by the campers according to an innovative process that was exclusively developed by the design team for this project. The plastic is recycled HDPE that was melted and molded into triangular shapes, and covered with a mix of resin and thermochromic pigment.”

Waste Side Story Pavilion / Cloud-floor

Waste Side Story Pavilion / Cloud-floor. Image: © Ketsiree Wongwan

“The six-meter-high pavilion comprises of, specifically designed, recycled plastic bricks and light nylon screens. Each architectural component is being thought in terms of product design: the scale and proportion of each element derived from the products they are intended as after the event. Following the design week, the bricks and screens will be dismantled into over 2500 chairs and 1500 tote bags.”

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Recycled Materials. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics here. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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About this author
Cite: Moreira, Susanna. "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: the Three R's Rule Applied to Architecture" [Reduzir, reutilizar e reciclar: o princípio dos 3 R's aplicado à arquitetura] 06 Aug 2020. ArchDaily. (Trans. Duduch, Tarsila) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

The Circular Pavilion / Encore Heureux Architects. © Cyrus Cornut


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