While Joel Lubell was sitting in a meeting, somebody said, “We should build sheds.” Someone else said, “We should have a competition.” While Joel Lubell was sleeping, something was marinating. He woke up with an idea: a competition to design a studio space built entirely from reused materials.
This idea became the ReSpace Design Competition. Last year (2012) was the competition’s first iteration. The entries varied from something called the Sun Pit to Triangle Coops to a Pop-Up Cinema to an Urban Farm and Market to the Light Wall (the winning entry).
Joel says that when you are designing with reused materials you have to start in the middle, by looking at what materials are available. He has the experience, too. For 8 years he was program coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County’s deconstruction program. During that time he grew the program from its infancy to a full-scale deconstruction service with four employees and three Americorp Vista workers.
Joel believes it is important to think about the embodied energy of materials. All the energy that went into producing a material is simply wasted when that material is thrown out. By reusing the material, you are getting much more bang for your buck because you don’t have to invest more energy in producing the material from scratch.
You have to lean-in to deconstruction, says Joel. When someone calls you and says they have a house full of hardwood floors you can have, you have to have a crew ready that can get the job done quickly, because people rarely want to wait for their building to be taken apart slowly. For someone running a deconstruction business this means that you have to keep a crew busy with any work you can, so that when the good jobs come around, you can do them.
Building a 1200 square foot shop behind his house, Joel put his ideas to practice. The shop is pretty impressive. On the outside it looks more like a house than shop, and the inside makes every shop I’ve ever seen pale in comparison. Joel built the shop entirely out of reused materials. There are two steel I-beams around which the structure is built. Joel explained to us that he designed the space around these beams, letting the rest follow the layout of the beams.
Joel has also come up with a symbol for reuse, that he hopes will give the many forms of reuse some recognition: from reusable milk bottles to shopping at thrift stores to secondhand technology.