Re-Growth at Buildex Vancouver

Cristina Belmonte

Buildex Vancouver is Western Canada’s largest forum connecting the holistic building industry. Through 250+ exhibitors, installations, innovation showcases, demonstrations, participants can explore products, materials, technologies, and services and meet face-to-face with colleagues from every corner of the building industry. But this year, there is a new element to the show.

Unbuilders and MGA (Michael Green Architecture) have created an experiential display that confronts the largest single contributor to our overflowing landfills – construction and demolition waste. Within this ‘waste’ lies one of the greatest tools we have as an industry to build a net-zero future. Current construction and demolition practices produce 40% of the solid waste in Canada – equal to 4M tonnes of waste per year.

Within this ‘waste’ lies the potential for one of the greatest tools we have as an industry to build low-carbon buildings. Our ability to find new lives for these materials can divert millions of tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. By turning ‘waste’ into supply as part of the circular economy, we also unlock the potential to connect to the layers of stories held within materials, enhancing the experience and deepening our connection to place.

“BC’s building industry is currently tackling significant challenges and opportunities: Increasing building performance, reducing embodied carbon, improving individual and community wellbeing, adopting technology, and solving a construction workforce crisis,” says James Wyatt, Program Manager. “So, the educational conference program focusses on three key themes this year: Future Work, Carbon Reduction & Wellbeing, and Digitization & Industrialization.”

The installation, Re-Grow, itself is a visual display of the circular economy. Starting with a large pile of demolition debris, the issue of waste within our industry comes to the forefront. The story demonstrates what needs to change from the traditional linear economy model of taking, making, discarding.

As an alternative, a pile of carefully deconstructed building materials is presented. These timber materials can be saved, sorted, and re-used. Within this material lies the tremendous value; the timber is a natural carbon storage system. We often talk about the use of wood to grow our buildings from the power of the sun; what this installation explores is the opportunity to re-grow our buildings with the use of deconstructed materials.

Rising from the waste pile, a large canopy spans above the exhibition. The structure is designed to be built and deconstructed. The structure provides a roof canopy, vertical walls, and floor – an abstracted tree. A representation that buildings are not just shelter; they are material banks. Around the canopy base, the circular economy’s story is presented. This is a story from tree to extraction, fabrication, building, “waste,” and finally to the opportunity to rebuild and re-envision our future.

The wood material is celebrated in various finishes from its most raw, salvaged state, all the way to a refined finished quality within high design furniture elements. The material within our buildings has real value, both as carbon storage and as pieces of our history. Just as every tree in our forest is unique and has a fantastic story, every part of thoughtfully deconstructed material has a story to tell.

Buildex Vancouver will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, March 23 – 24, 2022.

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