Time and again few people have taken untaken paths for conserving nature and sustainability towards practices. The following are 10 examples of people’s approaches in upcycling materials and their outcomes related to architecture.   

‘Upcycle’ means reuse of the product, material, or waste by enhancing its quality and value than its original state. The construction industry nearly accounts for 40% of the waste generated on this planet by mainly six materials; brick, concrete, steel, glass, wood, and plastic. As architects, if this waste is generated it is our responsibility to give alternatives to this downcycle. 

The concept of upcycling is vast and changes with ideas. Sometimes raw materials or different materials are used or modified to obtain new materials other times techniques and skills have also helped in simplifying this process. Two approaches are mainly observed firstly product-based; i.e potentially recyclable materials are directly used after few or no modifications and secondly, recyclable materials are mixed to obtain a new product from minimal energy consumption.   

Time and again few people have taken untaken paths for conserving nature and sustainability towards practices. The following are 10 examples of people’s approaches in upcycling materials and their outcomes related to architecture.   

1. Project – Sint Oelbert School, Oosterhout, Netherlands

Architect – Grosfeld Bekkers van der Velde Architecten
Material – ‘Pretty Plastic’ façade cladding tiles
Year – January 2020

The Sint Oelbert gymnasium school designed by Grosfeld Bekkers van der Velde Architecten is the first permanent structure to be cladded in Pretty Plastic shingles from recycled PVC windows and gutters. 

These exterior cladding shingles designed by Dutch studios Overtreders W and Bureau SLA are ‘First 100% recycled cladding material’ made from shredded PVC building window frames, downspouts and rain gutters. These diamond-shaped grey colored shingles are fire approved in class B (extremely difficult to burn) with each tile with unique texture due to its plastic compositions. All its molding and manufacturing raw material wastes were collected from neighborhoods in the Netherlands to upcycle plastic waste benefitting the circular economy

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Completed project photograph_©prettyplastic.in
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Texture and pattern of shingles_Image 1_Completed project photograph_©prettyplastic.in
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Night photo with lights_Image 1_Completed project photograph_©prettyplastic.in
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Grey Shingles colors and each unit_Image 1_Completed project photograph_©dezeen

2.Project – K-Briq 

Architect – Scottish startup Kenoteq by Professor Gabriela Medero
Material – construction and demolition waste
Year – 2019

K-Briq is made of 90% construction waste that is more sustainable and generates a tenth of the carbon emissions less during manufacture than regular brick. Professor Medero spent over 10 years at Scottish University to come to this end. The K-briq looks and weighs like a normal brick and behaves like a clay brick with better insulation and produces less than 10% carbon emission while producing. 

The secretly guarded element is the binding material used with crushed bricks, concrete, gravel, plasterboard, and sand to make it sustainable and efficient. The 2020 Serpentine Pavilion in London was supposed to use and test the K-briq.

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Various Samples in different colors_Image 1_Completed project photograph_©dezeen
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Machinemade K-Briq_Image 1_Completed project photograph_©dezeen
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Professor Gabriela Medero with the finished product_Image 1_Completed project photograph_©intelligentliving.com

3.Project – Café Infinity

Architect – RJDL (Rahul Jain Design Lab)
Material – Shipping Containers
Year – 2019

Café Infinity designed using the recycled 40 feet shipping containers carefully crafted with minimal modifications to preserve its raw form. Structural and functional elements are curated with the idea of sustainability. Interior passive cooling and insulation are provided with 50mm Rockwool, gypsum, and fiber cement boards. Louvers made of container doors allow flexibility in spaces and safety during harsh cold or heat opening up in the courtyard. 

Planned with two side courtyards with infinity loop around for users of medical college hospitals making available their own space.

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Top view Completed project photograph_©betterindia.com
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Aerial view photograph (www.thebetterindia.com)
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Site Plan_©rjdl.in

4.Project – The Canaan (House), Kerala, India

Architect – Ashams Ravi
Material – Bamboo, Mud, Bricks, Mangalore tiles (90% recycled waste)
Year – 2019

The 2-stroyed house uses recycled material like bricks, beer bottles, salvaged doors, windows, and tiles from the previous building demolished. The main aim was to build an eco-friendly and sustainable way of keeping carbon footprint as low as possible. The construction period of 4 months (April-Aug 2019) respected the site and its surroundings with 13% minimal site coverage and no damage to existing vegetation. 

The process of construction was challenging as a definite plan was not prepared and constant up-gradation was made on the materials used as they were being salvaged.

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Interior elements_©betterindia.com
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Interior elements_©betterindia.com
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Interior elements_©betterindia.com

5.Project – Zero Waste Bistro Restaurant, New York, USA

Architect – Linda Bergroth
Material – ‘The ReWall’ – Recycled Tetra Packs
Year – 2018

Designed with the philosophy of ‘refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle’ zero waste bistro was curated at WantedDesign during NYCxDesign and demonstrated that good design can also be a big part of circular economy and usage of sustainable materials. The material used is recycled food and beverage cartons turned into environmentally friendly building materials by ‘The ReWall Company’. 

The Zero Waste Bistro also displayed furniture, product, interiors, and food made from 100% no waste and safe material to encourage and promote upcycling in architecture at all stages. 

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Actual site view with people experiencing the pavilion_©azuremagazine.com
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Arched ReWall Interiors__©dezeen
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Light blue and white contrast in furniture and interior_©archdaily

6.Project – UPCycle Office, Austin, US

Architects – Gensler
Material –
Year – 2018

The adaptive reuse of an old warehouse was repurposed by creating a smaller multi-tenant office by recycling 100% of the old structure. The aim was to go beyond using recycling materials for additional and internal design elements as well. Old building elements like exhaust fans were also reused as decorative. The old and inward-looking space was transformed with creative graffiti and décor elements welcoming and encouraging more people for interaction and connection under one roof.  

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Interior Graffitti on columns_©austin.curbed.com
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Upcycled from facade_©archdaily
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Axonometrci view_©archdaily
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Reused corrugated sheet facade_©inhabitat

7.Project – Enabling Village, Singapore

Architect – WOHA
Material – recycled Shipping containers, oil drum, and concrete pipes
Year – 2016

Enabling Village in itself is a repurpose project of an old defunct Bukit Merah Vocational Institute built in the 1970s into a verdant and accessible community center. The renovation makes the space inclusive and sustainable for all with spaces named ‘Nest’, ‘Playground’, ’Village Green’, ‘Hive’, ‘Hub’ and ‘Academy’ encourage all types of people to read, play and interact. 

Concrete pipes with niche seating for secluded reading spaces and as resting nooks. Oil containers in vibrant colors with trees and planters all over. Sea container as bridges. Many elements are used in harmony with each other to create a breather for surroundings.  

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View with sea and oil containers repurposed _ ©archdaily
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Architectural plan_©archdaily
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Central Courtyard ram seating _©inhabitat

8.Project – The Circular Pavilion, Paris, France

Architect – Encore Heureux Architectes
Material – Reclaimed Doors
Year – 2015

The Circular Pavilion has nothing circular but is inspired by the process of circular economy i.e ‘one person’s waste becomes another person’s resource’. 60% of the materials are for a second life i.e 180 reused timber doors. As outside the inside is also repurposed furniture from the Parisian waste collected, assembled, and painted. Innovative use of doors at the base as well as top with just tilt of a degree.

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Front facade_©archdaily
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Structural isometric view (www.dezeen.com)
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Recycled material chain diagram (www.dezeen.com)

9.Project – Bang Brewing, Minnesota, United States

Architect – Alchemy Architects
Material – Prefabricated grain bin and salvaged timber
Year – 2013

Alchemy Architects are known for upcycling in many projects and leading budget-friendly sustainable approaches. Bang brewery is constructed with a prefab grain bin of corrugated steel and most of the interiors with salvaged mismatched timber from the surroundings. Breweries demand high plumbing and high-quality floor which was easier due to modifiable steel material. The sloping roof with opening enables the stack effect of hot air and removal of odor within the structure easily.

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Interiors with salvaged timber_©architizer
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Interior with brewing equipment_©architizer

10.Project – EcoARK, Taipei, Taiwan

Architect – Far Eastern Group
Material – ‘Polli-Brick’ Recycled Plastic Bottles (1.5million)
Year – 2010

‘Polli-brick’ is made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate polymer. It is translucent, insulated, durable, and strong due to the interlocking structure with lightweight for curtain wall systems. A curtain wall system is formed using interlocking of bottles staggered and locked using a plastic membrane with lids.

‘The world’s first plastic bottle built structure’ said by few in Taiwan was constructed to raise awareness about the importance of recycling plastic. Apart from a low carbon footprint and emission, it is also aesthetically beautiful over 9-storey of height.

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Polli Brick curtain wall technique graphic_©inhabitat
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Finished facade using recycled plastic_©inhabitat
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Curtain wall joinery details_©inhabitat
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Finished srcuture with a water body and plastic bottle curtain facade_©inhabitat
Ruchi Kumbhani
Author

RuchiKumbhani is currently a final year B. Arch student at PVP College of Architecture, Pune. She is a curious mind & travel enthusiast. With few days of intense binge indoors to days of cycling outdoor, she loves to observeinterrelationship of different settings/spaces and penning her thoughts over it.

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