How to salvage materials

Evaluate buildings for possible renovation rather than complete demolition, says Anupama Mohanram

Updated - October 13, 2018 01:05 pm IST

Published - October 12, 2018 02:45 pm IST

O bserving the situation in our cities today, it is safe to assume that most buildings constructed before the 1980’s will soon be brought down and most likely re-built using new materials. This will lead to the extensive dismantling and demolition of the structures and disposal of the demolished materials into our already overflowing landfills.

One way to avoid this is to evaluate buildings for possible renovation rather than complete demolition. This will not save the cost of an entirely new construction, but also prevent large amounts of demolition debris from going to landfills. If this is not possible due to poor building stability or other reasons, complete demolition may be the only option.

Salvaging materials

In this context, it is essential that we try to salvage as much of the existing material as possible to re-use in the new construction. To ‘salvage’ something means to retrieve or preserve something from potential loss or adverse circumstances. This will not only prevent the material from being discarded but also ensure the availability of good quality building material for the new construction for no additional cost and cut down pollution from manufacturing and transporting of new material.

Some of the construction items that can be salvaged include woodwork in the form of doors and windows, Steel in the form of grills and any other re-usable fixtures if in good condition. As the quality of wood thirty years ago is generally considered better than what is available today, wood joinery including doors and windows are popular ‘salvage-able’ materials. These can be used in the new construction in the same condition with minimal work if the new joinery can be sized to match the earlier ones.

Traditional wood shuttered windows can be re-used to form foldable partitions within the new home. They can also be used innovatively to create rustic kitchen cabinetry. However, it is important to plan ahead of time: list out the materials to be salvaged and ensure they are protected until ready to be used in the new construction.

Focus on reuse

Apart the environmental advantages, salvaging materials and reusing them also allows us to create something unique, and to preserve a part of history. In traditional family homes, salvaged materials provide the occupants a psychological sense of satisfaction of preserving a part of their ancestral history, thereby giving them a comforting and familiar feel. Interesting and innovative methods to use salvaged materials will serve future generations.

Even if there is no existing construction to be replaced, salvaged doors and windows are readily available and can be procured from re-sellers. They can serve as an environmentally friendly and charming alternative to completely new joinery. We hope to see a healthy demand for use of salvaged materials in the years to come to ensure environmental sensibility, reduced cost, innovation and retain a hint of the past.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution,

a sustainable

architecture firm

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