Salvaged Building Materials Make for Cutting-Edge Design


Plenty of data and commentary exists on the construction industry’s affect on resources, land, and the air.  Builders and architects are responding in kind: contractors show more interest in using recycled materials, and retailers from the local hardware store to the behemoth warehouse chains offer more “eco-friendly” supplies and fixtures.  LEED is becoming the norm for architects.

But what if you avoided recycling and reusing in the first place? Many homes in our Los Angeles Silver Lake neighborhood boast fixtures and materials from a nearby salvage store, where everything from bricks to gates to a door from Rod Stewart’s home (which would set you back about US$12,000; the bricks are 25 cents) are available to give your home or yard a facelift.  If you are fortunate enough to see the artist JB Blunk’s home in Marin County, you will be sold on the timeless beauty evident in a home constructed out of locally salvaged materials. One such leader in the movement to move from recycled to repurposed is Michael “Bug” Deakin, a British Columbia native who now lives in Petaluma, CA.

Deakin built his first home out of reclaimed materials in 1970.  As a young adult he traveled the world, learning building techniques from Japan to Bali to South America.  Since then he has designed everything imaginable to custom homes, boats, movie sets, parade floats, and dog houses from repurposed materials.  His upbringing instilled the belief that builders should build from what is already available:  one of 10 children, it was only natural that just about everything was recycled if not reused.  His enthusiasm is evident in Heritage Salvage, a workshop and living inventory of sustainability and creative design in Petaluma.  The business employs a welder, master craftsmen, a cabinet maker, and the auxiliary positions that keep the operations humming, including a marketer and graphic designer.

A peek at the current inventory is at once nostalgic and brims with opportunity for designers and homeowners who want something between an ostentatious McMansion and a minimalist modern home.  Bleachers salvaged from an athletic field from the University of Southern Illinois; bricks that once housed an eastern Washington warehouse that was torn down—along with the sawdust and shavings; and yellow pine from a defunct truss builder are just a few of the items in the inventory.

True, those materials must be shipped, so there is some carbon output left as a residue; but construction is not going to end anytime soon, even during a foreclosure crisis.  To learn a little more about Deakin’s philosophy and a tour of Heritage Salvage, watch the video below.  Better yet, make sure you pay a visit to Petaluma, one of the state’s best-kept secrets, and stop by the yard when you are in Northern California.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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