SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Construction sites are rubbish-strewn inconveniences to most people, but for an environmentally friendly Thai architect, they spell opportunity.
Singh Intrachooto, a university lecturer and author of several books on architecture and the environment, was so appalled by the tonnes of debris generated during the building process that he decided to turn it into award-winning furniture.
“I’ve always focused on green buildings, but one day, when I went to the site of an office block I designed, I could not believe the amount of waste that trucks were hauling away from there every day,” he told Reuters by telephone from Bangkok.
“My inspiration to create furniture sprang from an attempt to reduce the amount of waste from my building sites.”
Singh said that up to 40 percent of the contents of most urban dumps is from construction sites, a statistic which spurred him into trying to “rescue” this rubbish.
“In Thailand, we burn waste, which causes even more damage to the environment,” he said. “The more I saw waste and the more I knew about it, the more I realized I had to do something.”
Singh is one of a handful of furniture designers in Asia, home to some of the world’s best teak wood, who consider the environmental impact of his products.
His pieces are one-of-a-kind because each is made from a unique batch of wood splinters that are sometimes combined with concrete, fiber glass or even juice and milk cartons.
The materials dictate the shape and size of the piece. Even though he did not study furniture design, his works are currently on display in galleries in Los Angeles and Paris. His company, Osisu, sells pieces from its website, www.osisu.com.
“When I started doing furniture some 18 months ago, people thought I was absolutely crazy,” he said. “The construction workers especially thought I was mad because I asked them to set aside the wood, steel and concrete waste for me.”
Singh employs furniture makers to execute his designs, and pieces can take two weeks to craft.
“I work with them in the woodshop. In the initial stages, it was very difficult to convince these experienced craftsmen that you could actually make furniture from waste,” he said.
Most of Singh’s first customers were from the United States, but now Thais and Europeans are taking an interest in his work.
“There’s something really satisfying about making furniture this way,” he said. “I don’t pretend to be completely environmentally friendly, but I do try and spend three to four hours a day at least doing something for the environment.”