In today’s building environment, people are looking for that edge that will give their home an individual touch and differentiate it from the other cookie cutter homes on their street. What could be a better way of doing this then using building materials with their own unique history and story to tell.
Recycling and Reusing building materials is a fantastic way to not only bring character to your home, but to give a perfectly good product that would ordinarily be thrown away a second life. This means you are spreading the embodied energy used to create the material over both it’s first and second life, resulting in not only a beautiful design feature for your home, but also a win for the environment.
Pictured above BVN ‘Project Zero’- This residential home featuring recycled bricks received a commendation in the category of Sustainable Architecture at the 2016 National Architecture awards, Photography Credit Christopher Frederick Jones.
The beauty of using natural building materials, whether it be clay bricks, roof tiles or pavers, or even timber, is not only that they have an incredibly long life, but also that they age beautifully. This makes them the perfect materials to be reused and recycled. Depending on the style of your home, the recycled materials can either be used to blend in with other materials, or alternatively, can contrast to create a beautiful modern home.
Clay products require no finish (paint or render) to maintain their colour or appearance. This makes them a great product to reuse as it means they can easily be removed from their first application and reused without any treatments required (other than a possible clean).
If you are renovating your home, any of these materials that were already on site can easily be reworked into your new home design. Alternatively, all of these materials can also be sourced in many cases for a fraction of the cost of new materials. Both options require vastly less energy in transporting the existing materials in comparison to manufacturing new materials all together, thus having a lesser impact on the environment.
When choosing to work with a recycled material, you can choose to use it in it’s originally intended form, or, with a bit of abstract thinking, can use the material for an entirely new purpose creating a point of difference within your home.
Recycled bricks are one of the most popular materials to incorporate into a home. A beautiful heritage brick can serve as a key design feature in contrast to a modern design. Recycled bricks can be used for feature paving, internal floors, ceilings, built in furniture, steps or even seating, the options are truly endless.
Pictured above: Loft Szczecin ‘Loft in a Marmalade Factory’- This residential apartment set in a former warehouse of a marmalade factory in Poland features recycled brick ceilings. Photography Credit Karolina Bak.
Original timber roof beams can be reused in a new design, leaving them exposed, rather than covered up with other materials to become a feature in themselves. Existing structural timber can be used in its original format size, or even cut down and used as feature claddings and linings. The timber can either be left raw and unfinished, sanded down and oiled or stained for a more perfect finish or even given a finish further left of field such as charring, through mild burning/torching. One of the huge benefits of using recycled timbers is not only the charm and characteristics inherent in aged timber, but also the format size. Often it’s easier to find recycled large format timber sizes than new timber.
Iredale Pedersen Hook ‘Perry Lakes Tower’- This residential home features recycled timber from the seating of the stadium that originally occupied the site as external cladding.
Whilst bricks and timber may seem like the most obvious choice when it comes to recycled materials, don’t discount other products. Recycled roof tiles can be reused not only in their original application on a roof, but also in an alternative application such as a wall cladding. Pavers again can easily be pulled up and reused elsewhere in their original application. Whilst character pavers can serve as a fantastic design feature in landscaping, even older pavers that may be out of fashion can be reused in dead areas of your outdoor space that need paving but won’t be seen, saving you the cost of purchasing new pavers.
As well as clay products, concrete building materials, such as Masonry blocks, also have a very long life, making them perfect to reuse and recycle in your home. Concrete breeze blocks were huge in the 60’s and lucky for us, they are making a strong resurgence. Original breeze blocks can be reworked into your new design as a stylish modern feature to your interiors, or alternatively, could even be used outside as feature walls, window shading or even planter boxes- they are an incredibly stylish, versatile product.
OLA Studio ‘Ari Apartments’ – The entry to this apartment complex is paved with recycled bricks salvaged from the original building on the site. Photography Credit Paul Carland, XLCreative
It is important to remember that recycled materials do not suit every design application and thought needs to be given not only to the design, but also to any implications of using recycled materials. For example, materials may lose their structural integrity when recycled, therefore must be used in the correct location/application, or paired with other materials that can be used as the load bearing support.