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Building with Reclaimed Components and Materials: A Design Handbook for Reuse and Recycling By Bill Addis. Earthscan, 2006, £49.95

This is a must-have book for any architect serious about sustainability. As Thornton Kay of Salvo explains in the foreword, 'reuse [is finally] figuring on the construction radar? and the salvage and reclamation trades must evolve from a cosy love affair between maverick dealers and upmarket homeowners to? harness the? interest of the construction industry.'

Bill Addis of Buro Happold, with input from BSRIA and National Green Specification, tells you just how to do it and explains the realities of the reuse and recycling marketplace.

The design and procurement process is entirely different from the traditional way of working, because suitable materials must be sourced before detailed design can begin, rather than designing and then specifying as for new-build.

The first chapters set the scene and explain the process with a handful of useful case studies. Subsequent chapters provide design guidance on different building components: foundations, structure, envelope, interiors and external works, and mechanical and electrical. For each building element, three types of reuse are considered: reuse in situ, reuse of components from another building, and use of materials which have recycled content.

A fascinating read and a useful reference manual, which is worth every penny.

Natural Building: A Guide to Materials and Techniques By Tom Woolley. The Crowood Press, 2006, £19.95

Tom Woolley, known for the Green Building Handbooks, has produced this book on natural building, which covers earth; timber; straw bale; green and natural roofs; lime and stone; hemp with lime or earth; natural insulations; and paints and finishes. Environmental impact, beauty and harmony are his guides.

Too short to be a manual on all these technologies, it is, even so, a very practical book on building processes and their pros and cons, touching on cost, regulations, planning, insurance, etc.

Architects need to know all this, but could use more on design possibilities, such as heights and spans, when the materials are used structurally. While most examples are on the domestic scale, a few are significantly larger, like Alec French Architects' Kindersley Centre (AJ 15.07.04).

One topic that is fully illustrated but little discussed in the text is what green architecture looks like. Most projects illustrated are hairy, many self-consciously hand-made in appearance, located on their own rural sites. An expressions of their builders' whole-earth aspirations no doubt, but not necessarily the most useful message to the majority, who live in cities and suburbs. For them likewise, there is nothing much on refurbishment and retrofit.

For those who want to embrace these building technologies wholeheartedly this is a useful and readable book, enhanced with many good photographs and sketch details.

Green Roofs and Facades By Gary Grant. BRE Press, 2006, £22.50

The title and cover of this book are very promising, but it disappoints. For the uninitiated, it provides a satisfactory overview of green roofs around the world, but much of this can be found on green-roof websites, with more informative technical detail for architects. It sails through the history, policy, benefits, design, construction and maintenance of green roofs with too many generalities and not enough specifics. Photographs of appealing projects enliven the text but minimal information is provided.

Grant, an ecologist, is at his strongest when discussing planting and biodiversity. A definitive book on green roofs in English remains to be written, or perhaps translated from German, as green roofs abound in Germany, as does in-depth technical information. Nevertheless, the book is a good starting point.

Energy-Efficient Architecture: Basics for Planning and Construction By Roberto Gonzalo and Karl J. Habermann. Birkhäuser, 2006, £59.90

This is a beautifully presented book by two Munich architects, one the former editor of Detail. An introductory historical chapter, which surveys vernacular to Modern examples, is followed by two chapters devoted to urban design, one which outlines basic principles and another which presents seven, mostly German, examples (as well as Hopkins' Nottingham campus). Two more chapters are devoted to buildings, first principles, and then 14 case studies (Hopkins again, the Parliament Building) and a final chapter looks to detail design and technical issues. In today's world of mounting pressure for sustainability, BREEAM, and rapidly evolving technologies, the level of detailed information in this book could be much more extensive. Mostly useful as a reminder that sustainable design can produce good architecture.

Diary of an Eco-Builder By Will Anderson. Green Books, 2006, £14.95

Serialised in the Property section of the Independent, Anderson's very personal diary is an entertaining read and is full of information, too. He waxes lyrical about each step along the way towards the realisation of his 'Tree House' in Clapham, south London (completed in March 2006), including first-name references and photographs of every individual who participated in its construction. This gets a bit long-winded in places, but is interspersed with informative photographs and boxes highlighting resources and references. One may not be attuned to all of Anderson's aesthetic choices, nor his unremitting green zeal (upon moving into Tree House, he made a lifestyle choice never to fly again), but anyone involved in small-scale residential design projects who wants to bone up on the latest eco-choices will find plenty of useful information here - and good reason to smile.

A decent stocking filler.

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