• Mark Strong

trash buildings or reclaimed materials?


The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a secondhand home building materials store.
I'm jumping for joy...out of frame!

As a kid, Funtasia was the most exhilarating place I could be, with its arcade games and ticket prizes. I got a little older and that destination changed to Fry's Electronics, a massive gadget haven that's unfortunately currently sounding its death knell. A few weeks ago, I found myself having a forehead-clutching revelation that that place is now the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The attendant was low-key ready to toss me out of the store with my dramatic display. Anyway, the secondhand sourcing means that every visit will be slightly different, and your money goes a much longer way with the cost of things there. I'm flirting with renovation ideas for a very small space, so the fact that the ReStore's selection might include only 10 square feet of fit-for-royalty-quality tile or only two matching doors for a few bucks talks directly into my ear--nay, my soul! The H for H ReStore is a perfect mate to the Tool Library. Add in a visit to the SKTL's consumables section and everyone reading this is neck-deep in a personally profitable circular economy.


An interior shot of a room with a mosaic tile floor and a ceiling of record album covers, all reclaimed materials.
Lots of personality in these reclaimed homes. Credit: inhabitant.com

Some people are on a different level, though. Recently, I watched a builder named Dan Philips present on some houses made almost entirely of reclaimed material. He's done so for decades with the philosophy that there are a great deal of wasted resources with a culture that insists on having perfect homes. How many slightly-bent beams are thrown away to get that one straight, perfectly flat board? He's got brain food and brain candy in his at-times-hilarious 18-minute presentation at this link.


Another shoutout in circular economy operations goes to Arthur Huang, whose company Miniwiz made a 9-story building in Taipei using 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles, as well as a modular hospital using reclaimed waste. Is there something more flattering than a medical ward made of trash? Luckily, you can read about how cool it actually is in this article. Yes, the article was paid for by Kia, but even they've got green goals, using recycled plastics in their floor and ceiling textiles.


Neatly-arranged plastic bottles behind thin panels of glass decorate the facade of the EcoArk building
A closeup of the facade of the EcoArk building in Taipei

The only gripe I have with most of the circular economy ideas are that these lofty articles and presentations don't talk about the financial costs of their endeavors into sustainable building. That keeps hope about reducing landfills and plastic waste vague because it's impossible to know how widely-adopted any of these brilliant ideas will become. However, in keeping theme with circles, that's where I redirect readers to the first paragraph, where you can all upgrade your spaces and participate in the circular economy. H for H even has an upcycling guide that layers nicely with a visit to SKTL!