Home is where the heart is: the Whole House Reuse project

10 February 2014

Calling all designers – the Whole House Reuse Project needs your help to transform the materials from one deconstructed Christchurch home into beautiful, useful items.

The Christchurch ‘Red Zone’ has seen more than 10,000 homes ‘red stickered,’ which means the owners can no longer reside there, and the house must be demolished. More than half of the homes within the Red Zone have already been bulldozed.

In association with Rekindle, the Whole House Reuse (WHR) project has been created to celebrate the countless homes lost, by setting out to salvage the entire material of one modest red-zoned home in Christchurch, and asking designers and creators throughout the country to transform these materials into beautiful, purposeful works of art and practical objects. 

Shedding light on the treatment of construction waste, the project reveals the breadth and depth of materials lost in the demolition of houses in post-earthquake Christchurch.

The WHR project was spurred by a desire to communicate the degree of waste generated within the Red Zone, and as a way of telling the story of the social history of the homes and the people who lived in them – the layers of wallpaper, the lino floors, the 1980s renovations and the memories encapsulated within.

“I had a desire to do something different, in terms of mitigating the waste and the environmental impact caused by demolition, and the compounded sense of loss home owners were experiencing when seeing their house demolished,” says Juliet Arnott, WHR project founder and director, and Rekindle founder and development director.

The first phase of the project was to choose one home, to be deconstructed and treated in a way which respected the materials the house is made of, and the memories contained within. Stage 1 of the WHR project was supported by the Sustainable Initiatives Trust Fund, Creative Communities, and Jamon.

“I wanted to take a slower, more considered approach, in the hope of stimulating thought and action in terms of both demolition and design… these materials could be reused, like we do at Rekindle,” says Juliet.

Over a period of seven days, the entire substance of 19 Admirals Way, a modest three bedroom weatherboard home in New Brighton, Christchurch was transformed from a Red Zone home threated by demolition, into six garages’worth of salvaged resources, deconstructed and transported to storage by hand.

From there, 480 materials listings were recorded into the Catalogue of Resources that WHR is now presenting to the creative community of New Zealand, as part of the Design stage.

The record of the material contained in the home has been used to produce a book, Whole House Reuse: Deconstruction, which tells the story of the project so far, with photographic and written documentation of the salvage of 19 Admirals Way, a transcript of the conversation with the homeowners, and a research paper on deconstruction in New Zealand.

The WHR project has grown to become a symbolic project designed to create awareness of the scale and breadth of material available in one home, which also delivers a broader understanding of the waste that occurs as a result of demolition. 

“It’s an effective way to generate new thought processes. If products can be created from waste material, it will drive demand for the diversion of that waste, while simultaneously providing a market for deconstruction, as opposed to demolition,” says Juliet.

“A demand in the market for salvaged materials is essential, in order to enable the financial stability of salvage and deconstruction,” she says.

The project has nationwide applications, as the insidious impact of the Christchurch earthquakes spread elsewhere.

“Construction and demolition waste are already a major contributor to landfill in New Zealand, and the new earthquake strengthening standards in the Building Code will see an increase in demolition across the country,” says Kate McIntyre, WHR Project Manager.

A further application relates toregional council initiatives to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill – watch this space for more information in the coming months.

If you are interested in taking part in the design stage, you can register here.

For further information, visit www.wholehousereuse.co.nz