Recycled Design Elements

A recent report estimated that Cincinnati will face having to demolish over 6,000 residential structures in the next five years. Add to that the existing 2,300 vacant buildings, and Cincinnati has a huge task ahead of itself. Most of these buildings will never be repopulated or rehabilitated. Instead, they will become neglected to a point where demolition is the only option remaining. Reusing and recycling building materials from demolished buildings can give new life to vacant lots and provide social spaces for nearby residents. Harvesting building materials, such as brick, wood, and concrete to recreate elements on the site not only reuses valuable materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill, but can provide opportunities for creativity, innovation, and create a sense of place. Built elements may include seating, low walls, planters, hardscape and paving, and sculptural pieces.

Partnership with Building Value

Building Value, a nonprofit organization located in Northside, salvages reusable building materials and re-sells them. Building Value also provides deconstruction services by training at-risk individuals to remove valuable materials during demolition. Using Building Value as a contractor for vacant lot restoration can serve to provide multiple valuable services for the city: job training, material recovery, waste diversion, demolition, and beautification.

The following images present examples of using materials that could be recovered from a typical demolition project.

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Some commonly found household items could also be re-purposed. Setting aside things like bathtubs, as shown below, and combining several of them on the same site, can create a park-like setting. This can work at other scales with objects such as lighting fixtures, building materials, and other architectural features. Instead of sending Cincinnati’s history to the landfill, these items can be repurposed to give old spaces new life.

These types of details will not only provide the city with a cost-effective solution to creating community assets, they offer rich place-making opportunities that build upon the historical, architectural, and creative character of each neighborhood.

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Many urban soils are unable to support productive plant growth. Some of the sites surveyed in the initial part of this book showed to have soil that was hard and clay like, not suitable for many plants. The toxicity in urban soils is also an issue. Contamination from nearby busy streets makes a lot of soil unsuitable for any plant that produces vegetables or fruits. For this reason, planters are a very good option to allow Cincinnati to grow vegetation on its vacant lots. The dumpsters act as planters to support vegetation. This will allow plants to grow in some of Cincinnati’s less fertile urban soil conditions.

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