On the Path to Material Re-Use: Navigating the complexity of material sustainability for architectural practice
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The aim of this thesis was to understand how to define sustainability holistically, and how architecture can contribute to holistic sustainability by way of its material form. I conducted a literature review of definitions for sustainable development, looking for a holistic definition that addressed common attitudinal barriers to its practice. It became apparent that it’s useful to study sustainability under a systems science framework that takes environmental, social, and psychological sustainability as interdependent variables. In accordance with this, I reviewed different approaches to material sustainability in architecture, the lifecycles of several common building materials, and the links between material industries, to establish a system-based understanding of how material sustainability can be practiced. In the latter part of my thesis I focus on material re-use as an underrepresented approach to material sustainability, and study the opportunities and barriers in practicing it, particularly in the context of Southern Ontario. I propose that a monitoring tool that draws on public data sources could relieve one barrier to using reclaimed materials by making it easier to find available sources. I find that material re-use can be an architect-driven way to practice material sustainability, it conveys a message about the problems of materialism in our society, and it provides challenging but fulfilling craft-based work.