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MORAN: Building with scavenged and salvaged material

An old pigsty in Olot, Spain will get new life as a hen house with salvaged and recycled building material.
November 30, 2016 - 12:00 PM

For as long as I can remember, houses have been built in the place I live. If you were born in the past three decades in the Okanagan, a real estate boom is all you have ever known. My parents’ house is less than 30 years old, along with every house on the street. Already, the roof has had to be redone with cedar shingles instead of pine, there are major repairs on the way with the foundation, and we have had to replace all the cheap, rocky fill one square foot at a time. The style of construction we have grown accustomed to has a short lifespan and is dependent on excessive amounts of materials.

Salvaged wooden beams to be used for construction in Olot, Spain.
Salvaged wooden beams to be used for construction in Olot, Spain.

I have spent the past week in a village in northern Spain, volunteering on a small farm in exchange for room and board. Our work has been turning an old pigsty into a safe haven for a few hens. At the beginning, there were only stonewalls. No roof, and no wood to build from.

The majority of our supplies for building have been collected from this farm or the surrounding area. They are being given a second life.

Salvaged terra cotta in Olot, Spain.
Salvaged terra cotta in Olot, Spain.

The first step was to take two old telegraph poles and cement them into the top of the ancient stonewalls. Recently the electric company came to replace the old poles. The farmers here requested that they leave the old ones on the property to be reused. In B.C., only the straightest and most solid trees are used for power lines. There is a person whose entire job is selecting these poles out of the forest. This is very high quality wood for construction, and free.

The entire frame of the roof has been attached to two telegraph poles. The base is made from beams of oak salvaged from an old factory in the nearby city of Olot. These 200-year-old beams aren't perfectly straight, but they will last centuries. It is difficult to find any wood that is as durable because the old trees have either been logged or are protected.

Using recycled terra cotta to build in Olot, Spain.
Using recycled terra cotta to build in Olot, Spain.

The roof is being shingled in an ancient style, with over-lapping terra cotta roof tiles. There is a cache of tiles leftover from previous generations directly beside the new hen house. Some of these tiles are hundreds of years old. These terra cotta shingles are brittle and many have broken over time. There is a plaster made from local sand and cement that holds the tiles down. The broken pieces of terra cotta are worked in to the plaster for added strength.

I will never view a construction project the same way again. When I undergo my own building projects, I will take a good look around and be sure to scavenge and salvage as many materials as possible before I go to the hardware store.

Recycling terra cotta in Olot, Spain.
Recycling terra cotta in Olot, Spain.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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