Last week United Nations World Environment Day was celebrated in San Francisco, with the theme of Green Cities. On the excellent show "Living on Earth" there was a segment on the ScrapHouse built this month in San Francisco, by more than 80 volunteers, of reclaimed and recycled materials from salvage yards, dumps, or waste piles at active construction sites.
From the transcript:
"We have a large crew of scrap mongers, scrap salvagers out around the city ... This is extra glazing from the construction process which ordinarily would just go into the rebox to the landfill. The siding is the stuff that looks like it came out of your, my grandfather's smoking lounge in the basement of his house in Philadelphia in the '50s and it was at the back of some warehouse.The pictures you see here come from the ScrapHouse Website which says that after the conference, "ideally, the house will be disassembled, moved, and relocated on a permanent site. To donate or suggest a site, please email email@example.com."
"The structure is metal studs which came out of old tenant improvement and other construction jobs in San Francisco. It's all patched together, but you know structurally it works if it's put together right.
"There's a leather floor in the bedroom ... [there's a] large table in the living room, an artist is making out of cardboard, recycled cardboard.
I was excited when I heard this segment on the show, but disappointed when I saw these pictures. Nobody I know would live in a house like this.
Cute ideas, ugly execution: a chandelier made of tail-lights, one wall built of exposed phonebooks, a floor tiled with leather scraps left over from upholstery jobs, and an exceptionally hideous wall made of computer keyboards.
The exterior is defiantly ugly. Is this really the best San Francisco could do?
I know builders who have been using scavenged materials for decades and they build places far more appealing than this, more respectful, more enduring, and far more deserving of the space they occupy.
For instance, one of my musician-builder pals took the rafters from my old carport and used them in his own house, which is built predominantly of things no longer wanted by others. When his upscale customers (disciples of "Fine Homebuilding") have him rip out perfectly good kitchen cabinets because they need new ones made of purplewood, he always finds homes for the rejected ones. He saves windows and has a fantastic collection of salvaged items from old homes.
For another example, we stayed several times in a gracious, only somewhat funky beach-house called "Chateau Debris" built on Sullivan's Island outside Charleston out of materials which floated down the streets after Hurricane Andrew.
By the way, did you know that the whole of Sullivan's Island was under water for a while during that hurricane? I was told it happened because the homeowners along the shore had all bulldozed their dunes because the dunes blocked the view.
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