Plans showing proposed building in Chester

Reclaiming the past: reclamation of old building materials can radically reduce environmental impact

Posted on 28/09/22

Reclaimed materials

Reclaimed materials are those that have been previously used in construction that are then reused in another project. The materials are not reprocessed in any way and retain their original form; they can be re-sized, altered, refinished and adapted. Materials that can be reclaimed include bricks, slate roofing, ceramic tiles, fireplaces, doors, window frames, glass panels, metal fixtures and fittings, stairs, cobbled stones, steel sections and timber.

Why reclaim materials for your building project?

Swapping in reclaimed materials instead of new in any construction or building work will radically reduce the environmental impact. Salvo, a reclamation protocol, estimates that only 1% of building materials are currently from reclaimed sources, whereas some 5-10% of building materials’ demand could potentially be met from reclaimed. Often products such as wood are of a better quality or “grade” when they are reclaimed as they may have been sourced from mature trees. As it’s aged and weathered, reclaimed wood and brick can have a desirable and unique look that’s hard to find in new materials. Reclaimed items have a story that really adds to the appeal of your finished building.

Sustainable build

According to a report by the BBC, construction creates over a third of the world’s overall waste, and at least 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. It can be difficult to recycle construction waste, due to a sometimes high level of toxicity, or pieces not being of a usable size or location, so by reclaiming and reusing materials, this avoids waste. Redirecting reclaimed building materials into new buildings helps create a more sustainable build. Reclaiming materials means that items are reused rather than filling landfills, helping reduce environmental impact.

Sourcing materials

Reclaimed materials can be sourced direct from a demolition site, reclamation yards or salvage yards. Re-modelling projects are also a good source; often they can be carefully dismantled so that materials can be re-used. This is referred to in the building industry as deconstruction. If you are embarking on a building project, setting up good relationships with suppliers in the salvage trade can be useful. Early conversations with reclaim experts or dealers will help to determine what’s available. It’s helpful to identify early in the design stage what reclaimed items are needed, as these can take longer to source than ‘off the shelf’. It’s good practice to spot any demolition projects taking place near to the construction project. You may be able to source reclamation items from the demolition.

At NWD Architects we are experts in the area of limiting the environmental impact of building projects. One member of our team, Matt Davenport, is the only Certified Passivhaus Designer, who is also a chartered Architectural Professional, within 20 miles of Chester, Wirral and all the way west to Snowdonia. You can read the latest in his series of blogs on his EnerPHit retrofit to his new family home here.

If you have a project you would like to discuss with us or you would like to talk to Matt about his Passivhaus experience, then please get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

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