In the area of of environmental sustainability, it is evident that the building and construction industry makes a significant impact, particularly in terms of waste. Construction and demolition waste accounts for over 100 million tons disposed in U.S. landfills annually, representing almost one-third of the total amount of municipal solid waste produced. Clearly, this is an issue on which design community can play a major role in shaping the debate. 


With walls sheathed with everything from street signs and shower doors, ScrapHouse drew tens of thousands of passersby. Built in conjunction with World Environment Day 2005, ScrapHouse illustrates the possibilities—as well as the challenges—of green building, recycling, and reuse.  Over the course of just six weeks, a team of volunteers scoured Bay Area dumps and scrap yards. A group of architects, landscape architects, lighting specialists, and metal fabricators repurposed the materials, giving them new life. Solid core doors recovered from a school construction project became an interesting floor material. Outdated phone books became a wonderfully textured insulating wall. Retired firehoses from the San Francisco Fire Department were deployed as wall paneling, dramatically transforming a double height living space. And when it was all said and done, "scrap" had taken on a whole new meaning.

ScrapHouse was not allowed the luxury of a permanent foundation; instead, it was built on plywood platform, and disassembled following the World Environment Day celebrations. However, ScrapHouse lives on in print, film, online, and in exhibitions, continually attracting inquiries from around the world. Emmy award-winning filmmaker Anna Fitch filmed every step of the ScrapHouse construction process for a documentary that was broadcast on the National Geographic Channel in September 2006. A DVD of the documentary is available for purchase through Green Planet Films.

Public Architecture continues to explore the ideas raised by the project. In our work with the TAF Community Learning Space, the Design for Reuse Primer, and the Design for Reuse Knowledge Exchange, we have continued to explore the potential of integrating salvaged materials as vehicles for creativity and sustainability within the permanent building process. 

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ScrapHouse was a temporary demonstration home, built entirely of salvaged material on Civic Center Plaza adjacent to San Francisco City Hall.

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ScrapHouse, a design campaign of Public Architecture, and associated work are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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