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Monday, 8 February 2010

Recycling Architectural / Construction Materials

The more I read about saving the planet, the more the words "reclamation" and "reclaimed" pop out from the materials that I read. I stumbled across a website, SalvoWeb, which features many reclaimed architectural materials. Many of the items available look so unusual, I doubt that there would be a similar service available in Malaysia. These include 4"x4" granite cobbles, square top chimney pots, handmade rooftop tiles, and blue Victorian garden edging tiles.

A look at Google News, however, convinced me that using reclaimed materials is pretty commonplace in the Western world. For example:

  • Laguna Hotel in Orange Country was reported to have used reclaimed lumber in its makeover of several rooms (check out the "Photos" tab)
  • Condominiums in Canada are being built using salvaged material: glass and concrete are being pulverized and recycled, fly ash is being added to concrete, and manufacturing processes are recycling glass, steel and leather.
  • In New York, parts from decommissioned airplanes are being recycled into aluminium tiles.
  • Seattle Times has an article on how salvaging building materials can save you cash and preserve the past. They have links to three stores, of which I recognise RE Store from the pages of Dwell magazine.
  • Another store listed in the Seattle Times article, Second Use, has stories and photos of their success stories.
  • Recycle Works, a program in San Mateo county, has some information on what construction salvage (aka "soft demo") means.
  • An Australian company, Salvage, specialises in salvaging furniture, flooring and other architectural material made of hardwood.

I am getting very interested in the reclamation / recycling / repurposing business. Let's see where this goes. I have also become interested in the concepts of social enterprises, social entrepreneurship, social firms, venture philanthropy, and for-profit charities. Perhaps this is one such intersection where everything comes together to create a for-profit social enterprise.

I also learned about something called the Tansu Staircase, which idea originated from Japan: racks, or shelves, are built into staircases, turning the space beneath stairs into storage areas. Definitely, a good idea as more compact homes come into existence. Very nice indeed.