Nearly every industry on every continent is concerned about sustainability. The building and design industry is no exception, perhaps in part because demolition waste has become such a huge issue in the U.S.
In 2014, it is estimated that contractors disposed of 534 million tons of waste. In such an era, recycling makes sense. Fortunately, scientists in the research and development sector are busy creating new and surprising ways to recycle building materials with hopes of lightening the load on the planet.
For example, researchers at Washington State University are developing drywall blocks made form 80 percent drywall waste and a binder composed of industrial products. They have partnered with local contractors to receive their waste to help build these lightweight and waterproof bricks.
Of course, wood is on the list of highly recyclable materials. Repurposed wood fulfills two important objectives, providing environmental as well as aesthetic benefits. Interestingly, an Arizona builder/philanthropist, Dan Phillips, has launched a low-income housing initiative, Phoenix Commotion, to provide affordable housing described as “sound, affordable, and energy-efficient — even aesthetically interesting,” from rescued materials sourced “from flea markets to auto salvage yards.”
Making tiles from old license plates and decorative doors out of old colored bottles, Phillips’ quirky designs serve to provide homes to those who struggle to make ends meet and save the earth at the same time. However, his designs might not be so uncommon after all. According to a 2017 article in Bisnow, architects all over the world are turning to recycled items for interiors and exteriors, including cardboard, scrap metal, and plastic bottles.
In an era of booming design innovation, there is no way to predict which recycled materials will show up in buildings next.