Circular Economy Series, Part 2: Buildings as Material Banks

Through previous blog posts, we’ve learned about activating the circular economy in building construction and operations and how the TRUE waste certification framework  can help facilitate this transition. Here follows Part 2 in my series. 

Architecture tells a story, of who we were and who we are.
Preservation helps us keep these stories close to our hearts.
In these timeless structures, we find a sense of place,
a connection to our roots, and a glimpse of history’s face.

The concept of buildings as ‘material banks’ is a paradigm shift in the way the construction industry views and utilizes the materials it employs. Buildings are no longer disposable entities, but should be thought of as repositories of valuable materials that can be reclaimed and reused in future construction. This method of design, construction, and decommissioning of buildings plays a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry.

Opportunities include:

  • Reusing existing building and infrastructure materials
  • Designing modular structures
  • Designing for disassembly
  • Specifying materials that have been reused or are reusable
  • Opening floor plans that allow for future adaptation
  • Documenting materials and tracking them over a building’s life cycle
  • Designing with the concept of shearing layers

Reusing existing buildings is a strategy for carbon avoidance, the first step in a holistic decarbonization strategy. Considered the most effective way to address climate change, it directly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases produced. Alternatively, offsetting merely compensates for these emissions and does not address the source of emissions.

Preservation Sustainability is a grassroots design movement that originated at Ian Smith Design Studio in Philadelphia. It brings together principles of historic preservation, sustainability, and social equity. This movement acknowledges that each demolished building detracts from our history, our neighborhoods, and our climate. Preservation sustainability recognizes ALL buildings as ‘monuments to our culture’. It calls for penalizing demolition and using the funds for radical urban policies and new financial instruments to support historically disadvantaged communities. It calls for action today to preserve our past and protect our future.

Studio One Eleven, a leading architecture firm based out of Long Beach, CA was built upon the philosophy of creating more livable, sustainable, and engaging cities. Its founders began establishing their footing by revitalizing forgotten buildings and revitalizing through community culture and responsible design. Its portfolio boasts several preservation projects, including The Exchange at Bellflower, The Concord in Pasadena, and the first of its kind, Partake Kitchen in Long Beach, CA.

Partake Kitchen:

Partake Kitchen is an adaptive reuse project that will serve as both a ghost kitchen and a public food hall. Initially constructed in 1942, the property is registered under LEED Gold for new construction and WELL Gold certifications with the goal of preserving all structural elements of the building while allowing for a full interior fit-out and replacement of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. In total, 98% of the building’s total surface area, including the entirety of the exterior enclosure, exterior wall assemblies, and interior structural walls were reused, earning the project points for exemplary performance under the building and material reuse category of Material and Resources (MR) credits for LEED.

Leading Edge – who often works as in-house partners with leading national and international brands in architecture and real estate – played a crucial role in the design and responsible material sourcing of products. Our team worked closely with Zero Envy to perform energy modeling and provided sustainable design guidance in the pursuit of LEED and WELL certifications.

Personally, my favorite feature of this building is the mural on the façade. The intricate design on the exterior of the building is a masterpiece written in the flowing script of the artist’s native language. The ingredients of the South Asian dish Dal, hidden within the art, are a secret waiting to be unraveled by those who take the time to appreciate its beauty! Each stroke and curve of calligraphy tells a story as if the façade itself is a canvas for a beautifully crafted culinary tale. The intricate details and vibrant color (inspired by the color of turmeric) dance across the surface, inviting onlookers to taste the rich history that is baked into every bite. “The art speaks to sharing cultures, your heart, and your home through food”, says Imagine, the muralist from Nepal.

Partake Collective, is a sustainable feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. The food collective satisfies not only our cravings but our conscience, proving that green design can also be delicious – Bon Appétit!

(posted 3/2/23)

Surabhi Khanderia is a leading expert in the field of sustainability and architectural design. As a Sustainability Manager at Leading Edge Consulting Services, she excels in providing innovative solutions and unique perspectives to building projects. Her focus on reducing the environmental impact of materials and construction choices is highly sought after by clients. Surabhi’s extensive experience, including working with prestigious architectural firms and organizations such as Walt Disney Imagineering and Philadelphia International Airport, gave her a deep understanding of the industry. Surabhi is also passionate about spreading education and awareness about the embodied environmental impacts of building designs.

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