Building green houses

Focus on new developments
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Gone are the days when developers pulverised old buildings into dust to make way for the new. Salvage is big business and it makes commercial as well as environmental sense for builders to recycle as much as possible. At the very least, the unsaveable is crushed and used as hardcore.

Five years ago, a company such as Lassco Flooring in London had a few regular suppliers of materials, but now, says Tim Shorrock, director, they will get calls out of the blue offering a hundred thousand square feet of floor. "We do not supply developers who are building from scratch but we do have a big market in warehouse conversions."

Only where builders have to comply with stringent planning regulations will they use old materials. It is easier and cheaper, say, to use new York stone, which is cut to an even shape and thickness, than the old irregular flags - however aesthetically pleasing the worn stones are. Even in a conservation area it is not cost effective to use recycled roof slates, of which there are plenty, in preference to good mock slates.

However, some developers are going a fair way down the green road. On its south London site in Earlsfield, Laing Homes decided not only to save almost everything of the Victorian joinery factory that was to make way for 32 houses, but they cleaned and re-laid the old cobbles. "It was more expensive and time-consuming" says Andy Wilkins, marketing manager for Laing Homes South. "We also retained the boundary wall which involved re-pointing and laying a new course on top. It would have been more economical to have knocked it down."

The company, which has links with the World Wide Fund for Nature, also uprooted mature trees from another demolition site and replanted them at Earlsfield. Brown land, which accounts for 75 per cent of Laing's building sites - land which the Government is keen to see developed - offer a potentially rich supply of salvage. The London Yellow stock bricks from the joinery factory were sold for re-use, the hand-made clay tiles went to Wales for use in old buildings and the roof timbers, joists and floorboards went to a Nottingham furniture manufacturer.

Laing Homes is, of course, not alone in believing that environmental issues are of importance to purchasers. Redrow Homes, in its development in the grounds of a psychiatric hospital on the fringes of Warrington, took its first step towards mingling new build with the refurbishment of the old. All the bricks, ridges, chimney post, finials, window frames and tiles from outbuildings were used to restore those parts of the hospital they were keeping. While at Marine Gate, Southsea - which featured the refurbished Eastney Barracks - Redrow used parts of the demolished drill hall such as the steel columns to create new entrance canopies leading into the barracks. In the grounds, new mews- and courtyard-style houses were built in replica materials.