Whether we like it or not, every architect is a recycler.
“Out with the old and in with the new,”....or so they say. In the United States, a cloud of dust and debris paired with a wrecking ball and bulldozer tends to represent signs of forward progress, innovation, economic activity, and the hope for a better future through architectural design.
Commonly used as storage support for products in supermarket stocks and fairs, pallets are versatile. After their primary function has been discarded, the reuse of pallets for other purposes is increasingly common, collaborating to the reduction of the amount of waste discarded, especially as raw material for the creation of furniture and decks. However, going beyond the commonly highlighted DIY furniture tutorials on youtube, these structures are gaining ground as the main element in the construction of ephemeral architecture, such as small pavilions and urban installations. In fact, these small pieces can be stacked and united together in different ways and patterns.
When reflecting on recycling, sustainability, measures to take, and innovative technological solutions, one cannot help but think that there are also familiar approaches that should be taken into consideration. In fact, when examining the impact of the built environment on the climate, one notes that in many countries, 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. The most effective form of sustainability may, therefore, be saving energy by eliminating or minimizing new constructions, and by avoiding the demolition of existing structures.
Recycled and reused materials continue to grow as a more attractive alternative in the construction field. They are at most times a coveted sustainable substitute to conventional building materials, offering a financially resourceful solution when appropriately sourced and implemented. Aside from saving up on raw material costs, establishing recycling facilities or factories might present a good opportunity to generate jobs within a local setting (collecting, handling). The recycling process might also be used as a gateway to lower energy consumption, with some plants eventually generating their own power through specific material transformation techniques (Heat generated power).
Some researchers define the Anthropocene as beginning at the Industrial Revolution. Others identify it with the explosion of the first nuclear bomb, and others with the advent of agriculture. Regarding the precise timeline, there is not yet a scientific consensus. But the notion that human activities have been generating changes with planetary repercussions, whether in the temperature of the Earth, in biomes, or in ecosystems, is one that has become increasingly popular. The anthropocene would be a new geological era marked by the impact of human action on planet Earth. This acknowledgement of human impact is particularly disturbing if we consider that if the entire history of the Earth were condensed in 24 hours, humans would only appear in the last 20 seconds. Whether in the massive extraction of natural resources or in the carbon release from vehicles and industries, it is well known that a large part of the fault lies with construction activities, especially in the production of solid waste due to waste and demolition. In Brazil, for example, civil construction waste can represent between 50% and 70% of the mass of solid urban waste . Many will end up being discarded irregularly or thrown in landfills to be buried indefinitely.
Recycling and reusing in civil engineering is extremely important, especially when considering the amounts of waste production and energy consumption involved in the processes related to the construction site. Creating construction elements by re-designing the role of old objects or materials represents an objective approach to upcycling, as a path towards a more sustainable and responsible future.
Having been utilized as early as the Roman era in buildings of almost every scale, it is almost impossible to think of a building that does not have at least one concrete element. In fact, it is the most widely used construction material in the world, due to its versatility, resistance, ease of handling, accessibility, aesthetics, and other factors. At the same time, its manufacture is also one of the main polluters in the atmosphere, mainly due to the fact that the cement industry emits around 8% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).
TRS Studio has unveiled their design for a social project in the Callao region of Peru. The single-family module is based on a cargo container, constructed with strong materials emitting a low cost, and low environmental impact. The project is founded on community participation, improving the quality of health and housing in the Pesquero II settlement through sustainable materials.
Brazilian startup SysHaus, in partnership with architect Arthur Casas, developed a project of sustainable, smart homes that are ready in half the time of other pre-fab works. The startup project, specializing in high-end real estate, is made only of pieces of recycled materials, such as aluminum and MDF. In addition, the house does not produce waste or wastewater.
Some years ago, researchers in the United States previously tested the concept of using synthetic urine-based substances to fabricate building materials. However, new research conducted by Masters student Suzanne Lambert at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, puts forth a zero-waste process of producing urine-based bricks by using collected human urine for the first time.
When it comes to sustainability, the Netherlands has always been at the forefront. In recent news, Zwolle, one of the country's "greenest cities," implemented the world's first bicycle lane composed of post-consumer waste that would normally be discarded or incinerated.
Boutique firm, Fahed + Architects have developed a temporary pavilion for Abwab 2017, the highlight of Dubai Design Week that exhibits designers’ talent from across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Ten years ago when Colombian Fernando Llanos tried to build his own house in Cundinamarca, he realized that moving the materials from Bogota was going to be very difficult. After mulling it over, he decided to build his house out of plastic, and after a series of trials and errors, he ended up meeting architect Óscar Méndez, who developed his thesis on the same subject, and together they founded the company Conceptos Plásticos (Plastic Concepts) in 2011.