Reusing and recycling old buildings offers a big opportunity to reshape how we think about raw materials needed for construction.
We recycle paper to cut down fewer trees, we recycle glass to not expend the energy to make more, and we recycle much more because we realize that resources are finite. Why not buildings? Buildings require tons (literally and figuratively) of materials in order for them to be safe and completed. Recycling buildings could send us on the verge of a radical shift on the current stock of buildings. Instead of tearing the building down, we could reuse and recycle them. That in turn, would significantly change the activities of designers and builders.
Death by . . . the Human Ego?
There are buildings that exist in the world that have exceeded their expected life cycle, and research supports that buildings only die and become vacant because we want them to. Out of a study of 227 buildings, 24 percent were demolished simply because of the lack of maintenance. Another 34 percent were demolished because of area redevelopment. It seems our desire for “new” has put most building out of commission.
Finding the Value in Permanence
The value of a building increases when people can see a future for it: converting the building to other uses, or expanding it to serve a new purpose. Many people assume that in order for buildings to catch up with the modern world, they must be torn down and rebuilt from their ashes. By recycling buildings, we are changing that mindset that may not only save money, but also save the planet’s finite resources.