The Recycled Materials Movement

The Recycled Materials Movement add

While the use of recycled materials in construction is by no means revolutionary, the concept certainly seems to be gaining momentum. Combatting the mass-consumption habits endemic in our societies that have plagued Mother Nature, our landfills, and our conscience for far too long, this movement is grounded in the knowledge we can be smarter and more sustainable in our approach to our built environment.

The rapid popularization of recyclables has seen everything from more unorthodox materials like cargo containers and even biological materials through to glass, bricks and tiles find new purpose through adaptive reuse.

History is rich in examples of commercial and residential environmentally friendly endeavours: in Canada, an ultra-sustainable home that has inherited the moniker 'Earthship', has made meaningful use of throwaways including tires, aluminium cans and bottles to fashion a quirky and resilient living environment. In Bangkok, a recycled glass bottle Buddhist Monastery was made from over a million bottles. In Melbourne the four-storey Prahran Hotel was built using reclaimed concrete pipes. The virtues of a greener approach are definitely vast and vibrant.

On home soil, there are a number of protagonists helping to live and share the sustainability story. Pippin Wright-Stow, of F3 Design, has used truck tyres for planters, billboard skins for pleated cladding on a building, IV drip line stands for utensil hangers, and steel pile casings for garden retaining. His caveat with recycling materials for construction? "You have to apply time in the making and thought in the design... they need to be transformed. Otherwise, you risk them feeling old and dirty.

"I have found the previous use of an object, or pile of materials, can be the starting point for something very creative and ultimately unique. You have to imagine what they can be, not what they currently are. Contrast them against something crisp and new, or collect enough to give a sense of uniformity to them."

Sam Judd, co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines, addresses the value of recycling from the position of waste reduction. "Construction and demolition is over 40 percent of Aotearoa's waste stream - by far the worst culprit by sector - so we must come up with innovative examples that showcase how this can be reduced. Salvage is an excellent way to bring down the cost of building and give projects more character."

Sustainable Coastlines is the embodiment of this innovation in action best illustrated through its work on the Flagship Education Centre in Wynyard Quarter with goals to meet the Living Building Challenge requirements - the most rigorous sustainability framework for construction on the planet - and to use as many salvaged materials as possible.

A strong team, including pro bono consultants and supporters, brought the concept to fruition. Led by Andrew Taylor of Andrew Taylor Consulting, Jerome Buckell of Jasmax, Tanya Wylie of Thorburn Consultation, and Nick Carman of Holmes Consulting, the team developed strategies to meet the building code using salvaged materials.

"We modified two forty foot shipping containers and built a structural steel roof from salvaged beams to keep the centre dry. A key strategy was finding the materials from demolition yards such as Ward and Yakka, then instructing the designers to find a way to make this work. With support from Perry Metal Protection, we were able to dip the steel in a galvanising solution, that makes it withstand the oceanside weather.

"The result is a building that is open to the public and available for hire, which may well reach the ultimate goal of a fully registered living building, made from over 85 percent salvaged materials by weight."