We live in a very different world now than we did before. A very different time economically as well as a very different and challenging climate. Unlike the 90’s, the current climate does not encourage the same old types of building practices and forms as it used to. Today’s scenario calls for more sustainable, more equitable use of materials, efficient and responsive buildings.
“We normally think of architects as people who come in at the beginning of a project and take a building through to completion and then leave,” says Ang Li, assistant professor of architecture in the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern University. “Then the building gets occupied and takes on its intended use. I’m interested in what happens when a designer enters at that point in the project and sees a building through the maintenance of its entire lifespan and its demolition and what happens to the materials afterward.”
We need to look at buildings not just as static objects but as a sort of a process. Every element, every material that goes into it has an alternative value to it, a whole life cycle. Alternative models of architecture involve adaptive reuse and post-occupancy questions. What happens when a building is near to completing its life? What can be done to a dilapidated and demolished building? A building that needs maintenance from the bottom up?
Most building materials can be reused and given a second life, used alternatively. Broken tiles can make new tiles, concrete can be crushed and reused, used plastic can be turned into faux wood, old wood shredded can be re-processed. Newspaper wood, recycled construction steel, the methods are endless. But the benefits aren’t just leading to more sustainable built forms, these practices can efficiently lower costs and material demands and also efficiently deal with the increasing levels of garbage in the world. It can be seen as a tool for constant improvement of building practices and a more responsible environment. There really is so much that one can do on a project, and after its end.