Sustainable Design | Using Recycled Materials for a Greener Home

By: shushou | 29 May 2012

As a fine home designer, it is rewarding when a single specification produces multiple benefits.  Such is the case with using recycled materials in home design.

When I first specified “reclaimed barnwood” siding on a home design, the builder thought I had lost my mind.  But I told him it would give the house a more historical feel, and a sense of belonging.  So, he went along with the idea.  By the end of the project, the builder was so enamored with the use of recycled material in the design of the home, that he had included it in the interior finishes, cabinets, trim, doors, exposed beams, etc.  He has since started an entire company dedicated to traveling around the western U.S. looking for old, dilapidated barns that need to be torn down for barnwood.  He then sands down the material that is salvageable to take off that outer layer of age and dirt, and uncovers a beautiful barnwood that is already weathered; has already shrunk, cracked, twisted, and otherwise developed its character.  The result is a warm, inviting feeling that is very comfortable.

What makes it doubly great is the fact that there wasn’t one tree cut down to provide the exposed wood for the house.  It was all going to be thrown out…to the landfill!  That makes the use of recycled material in home design a very sustainable practice.  LEED home design includes recycled materials as one of its categories for sustainability certification.

The interior finishes are inviting as well.  This lower illustration shows reclaimed posts and beams.  Note how rounded and soft they appear.  Notice the notches in the posts, and how the contractor lined them up equally for both posts.  Those cuts were made a century ago in a completely different application in some barn in Eastern Oregon.  Now they serve to create an added interest to the wood work of the house.

One of my goals as a fine home designer is to make my custom homes feel like they  grew out of the ground.  There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but the use of weathered, reclaimed barnwood siding certainly helps.  A contemporary design that already looks old; what a concept!!!

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