Recycling – A contemporary scope of Eco-Architecture

Recycling – A contemporary scope of eco-Architecture

In today’s world “Going Green” has become a top priority, and ‘Recycling’ has turned out to be an effective tool towards it, to preserve our planet for future generations.

Increasing urbanization, excessive waste production, exploitation of natural resources and high consumption of materials and goods contribute towards negative environmental impact. A large part across the globe is majorly controlled and developed by the architects and the carbon footprints from the architectural industries are quite considerable. Hence, architecturally speaking, ‘Best out of Waste’ is no more a choice, but has become a necessity. 

The construction industry, being a major resource consumer and waste generator is now progressively resorting to the motto and guiding principles of – “The 7 R’s of Recycling and Zero waste” 

  • Rethink – do you really need
  • Refuse – what you don’t need
  • Reduce – what you do need
  • Repurpose – creatively upcycle
  • Reuse the reusables
  • Recycle – what you can’t refuse, reduce, repurpose or reuse.
  • Rot – the rest.


Sustainable Architecture – An ecological awareness 

Sustainable Architecture and Environmental Issues go hand in hand in the world of architecture, both local and international. Anything that shows ecological awareness is considered sustainable, and it functions in synchronization with the environment through its appearance. 

Sustainable architecture is involved in designing and constructing buildings that have a low environmental impact, achieving energy efficiency, and having positive effects on the health, comfort, and livability of the inhabitants of the structures. 

This is achieved through the use of appropriate technologies within the buildings like- 

  • Solar Power – Absorbing the sun’s radiation to cater for heating and electricity provision
  • Biodegradable materials – e.g. Organic paints
  • Water efficiency technologies – e.g. Rainwater harvesting and water conservation 
  • Smart appliances – Energy-saving self-sufficient appliances
  • Green insulation- Using recycled materials like pieces of denim and newspapers for wall-linings
  • Cool roofs – To reflect heat and sunlight away thus lowering the temperature of the structure

Recycled materials – An innovative and artistic expression of sustainable designs

General refurbishing and adaptive reuse are significantly on the rise. Architects are concentrating on creating structures that are not only sound, solid and functional, but also environmentally responsible. 

Sustainable management of city resources and resource conservation has become the prime motive in creating ‘smart cities’ and spaces. E.g. Bhubaneswar, Pune, Jaipur, and Surat are examples of smart cities in India whereas, New York, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen are examples of smart cities overseas. 

From orange peels to old containers, recycled materials when processed correctly can be used to make new building components while maintaining a comparable quality to that of the original and traditional materials. Recycled materials for construction and designing buildings can also be more easily dismantled and re-used later. The process utilizes the discarded materials to reintroduce them into the cycle of production. 

Examples of Recycled Architecture – 
  • Bosque Vertical in Milan, Italy: It is a marvelous structure encasing vertical forest with over 900 trees in tightly-packed balconies, and it also recycles the building’s greywater from washing clothes and dishes.

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  • Starbucks constructed out of old shipping containers in the USA. 

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  • Valsala cottage by ‘The Kerala man’ Vinu Daniel is built using mud-blocks.  

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  • The ETH Zurich Pavilion at the IDEAS CITY Festival in New York City is built out of boards made from discarded refreshment boxes.

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Recyclable Architecture- Build, Use and Reuse Urban structures

Whereas Smart, Green and Sustainable buildings are quite popular, ‘Recyclable buildings’ have become the new concepts these days.

Many buildings are physically sustainable to various uses and recycling of existing buildings has many benefits –

  • It helps in decreasing the pressure on new land 
  • Preserves the energy of the building materials
  • Lowers the use of new building materials
  • Generates fewer residues
  • Reduces negative environmental impact

The Adaptive reuse of existing buildings for repurposing when they have outlived their original purposes is a part of recycling and conversion. Whereas it refurbishes a building that might otherwise be demolished, it also helps conserve natural resources and minimize the need for new building materials. 

Through the recycling intervention, as much as possible, the original building’s material is used and preserved; resulting in creating, ‘A functional space at a reasonable cost’, by using older yet naturally stronger and rich materials already existing, making inherently green and sustainable effort, and retaining the historical features of the site. 

Example – 

Italian Pavilion for Dubai Expo 2020– The structure has been designed using the concepts of recycling, circularity and digitally reconfigurable architecture. It will be available for the public to visit in October 2020. 

Italian Pavilion for Dubai Expo 2020

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Upcycling, Downcycling, and Recycling 

In a circular architecture, there are clear dissimilarities between the various ways the waste and other discarded materials are reused. While upcycling and downcycling are both examples of recycling, not all recycling is considered alike.

  • Upcycling converts the discarded materials into something of equal or greater value, whereas, Downcycling transforms the materials into something of lower value
  • Upcycling prolongs the life of materials as opposed to the process of Downcycling
  • Upcycling conserves resources in contrast to Downcycling


Building anew or from scrap

A mix of both for the better and sustainable future of humanity’s next generations

The current world population of 7.6 billion is projected to dramatically increase to 8.6 billion in 2030 and 9.8 billion in 2050. This means rapidly growing usage of all kinds of supplies, almost half of forests would be gone by then, increased pollution, shortage of water and many such terrifying effects await if proper measures are not implemented today.

Whereas, a true revolution in the attributes of construction still needs to gain momentum to tackle the environmental issues that can no longer be ignored; the concept of flexible, temporary and adaptive architecture that move the ‘flow and changes’ of a place is being embraced largely by the forward-thinking group of people now.

For a truly circular concept to kick-off and sustain, everyone must be brought to the same page, be it the investors, architects or the construction team.


Written by –
Jyoti Jha