Current sustainable strategies in the architectural field are dominated by a conservative approach to use less, make less and consume less, epitomized by the ubiquitous attitude of “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” This austere sentiment for ‘less’ is accommodated by building for long-term durability. There is an abundance of underutilized built space in the world today, particularly in areas with drastically shifting industrial resources like Flint and Detroit in the US. As housing in these areas are abandoned, scavengers increasingly strip the structures of recyclable materials (aluminum siding, copper pipes, etc), leaving the bulk of the building material left unprotected and exposed to accelerated decay. Because we design for a building’s durability in terms of total assembly, we overlook opportunities to think of the built environment in terms of replaceable assemblies of varying durabilities.
Disposability first arrived in mass production with the widespread use of paper collars, cuffs and shirtfronts in men’s fashion. Shirt parts were inexpensive and easily disposable. They omitted the need to replace an entire shirt once the visible portion was stained or worn. The restructuring of the shirt to provide for single disposable components lengthened the life of the body of the shirt and allowed for durability to adjust according to the use patterns inherent in particular areas of the shirt structure. By acknowledging a variation of needs for durability in this case and making something strategically and variably disposable, overall durability and functionality were extended with minimal waste.
Using the paper shirt collar as a model, this paper will propose a new mode of material assembly in the built environment that embraces obsolescence, disposability and biodegradability. This paper advocates for the architectural field to rethink the assembly of buildings in terms of component-based variable durability of materials.
|Keywords:||Sustainability, Reuse, Component-based Contruction, Selective Disposability, Biodegradation, Planned Obsolescence|
Assistant Professor, Tenure-Track, Interior Design, Architecture, Visual & Critical Studies, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA, USA