Making new walls from old ones

Posted on 22 April 2015.

Although recycling materials is one of our main concerns, reusing them is the green answer. It generates less scrap, less waste and less pollution.

Designed by the generation of builders raised in the digital age, re-use celebrates inventiveness and puts architecture at the very center of the materials cycle.

Antoine Lavoisier is probably turning in his grave... with pleasure! The famous adage "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed" applies to the construction industry more than ever before. The proof – there are buildings (re)born from old materials popping up everywhere. In Australia, in an upscale Sydney suburb, this house found rusty old corrugated iron with which to create a brand new facade.

In an upper class neighborhood of a Sydney’s suburb (Australia) - Copyrights : Raffaello Rosselli © Mark Syke (

In Saint-Denis in France, on the foundations of old prefab-style site buildings, a thermal, acoustic shell was built with reused materials - including the windows – to make a hostel for the charity Emmaüs. It now houses Romanian families from the neighboring encampments.

An accommodation structure Structure d’hébergement Emmaüs - Copyrights: Niclas Dünnebacke © Cyrus Cornut

Like upcycling, reuse requires a little brainpower to switch materials from their original function.
In Stockholm in Sweden, in a former textile factory, magazines have been stacked from floor to ceiling to create partitions for a news agency.

Partition walls made of piled up magazines - Copyrights: Elding Oscarson © Åke Eson Lindman

In Bali, this luxury beach club has been dressed in eighteenth century teak shutters collected from all over the Indonesian archipelago... But the project owner needed persuading because the materials are all reused.

A beach club with slatted teak windows from the 18th century - Copyrights : Andramatin architect © Iwan Bann

In Massachusetts in the United States, the crossbeams from a highway viaduct now provide the structure for a villa.
Precast concrete, cladding, tiles, carpet, bricks, insulation... If they’re not recycled, these materials will end up as tons of waste. Inevitably, reuse opens up all sorts of new possibilities! It also is an economic alternative that can support an entire new sector. Since the 1970s in California, reuse has resulted in the creation of a building deconstruction industry rather than a demolition industry. This US state, the birthplace of reuse, has thought of everything! It even offers compensation for any additional costs caused by removing materials... through tax deductions.
Reuse is also an interesting answer to the issue of reducing our environmental footprint - it reduces both waste and energy consumption. No energy is used either to produce or to eliminate the materials. The best way of not wasting it...