Demi Fang

The Chair Laboratory: A case study on structural reuse

“As consumers, we practice reuse in everyday life, often as a means of wasting less. When it comes to buildings, the environmental and economic stakes are much higher, and yet reuse is rare at the architectural scale. If it sounds like a daunting feat to ‘recycle a building,’ that’s because it is. If the building can’t be reused where it stands, countless logistics are required to deconstruct, store, and transport it; so much so that in most cases people opt to demolish instead.

But once in a while, someone pulls off a great example of so-called ‘structural reuse’. This one is nestled into the mountainous terrain near Mt. Fuji.”

Photos by Dylan Iwakuni, graphic by Demi Fang

A case study of disassembling, repairing, transporting, and re-assembling a 93-year-old Japanese house into a chair museum was documented in a narrative essay supported by interviews with the team involved and on-the-ground images. A technical analysis of the case study found a 46-71% reduction in embodied carbon due to reuse, at the expense of a 39% increase in cost.

Related publications:

  • Fang, Demi, Juliana Berglund-Brown, Dylan Iwakuni, and Caitlin Mueller. 2023. “Carbon and craft: Learning from the deconstruction, relocation, and reuse of a traditional Japanese house’s timber structure.” In Journal of Physics: Conference Series. Lausanne, Switzerland.

  • A new home for an old home: a story of structural reuse, self-published on Medium, August 2023

Press: Exploring traditional Japanese woodworking for building sustainability, MIT School of Architecture + Planning 2023