Why did you start Reclaimed Space?
Tracen Gardner: The job came about because I’ve always been in the construction business. I had a ranch that was remote, and I questioned how I was going to be able to build out there. So that’s when I built the first space. After that, a bunch of people told me “Hey, you should do something with this. It’s the right pitch, the right amount of wood versus metal, the right materials,” and they talked me into trying to sell them. Then I realized that there’s a real demand for spaces like this, and it grew from there. It all grew about from having a place that’s remote and without water or electricity and needing to live on it within a short period of time. If you tried to build out there, it would take forever. It would take many months or even years – you wouldn’t believe how long it can take. You never know what will come up. Building in a controlled environment speeds it up, and you can accumulate materials that have meaning behind them.
Reclaimed Space works to minimize and even reverse the effects that new building and construction have on the environment. Can you talk about how you accomplish this?
Tracen Gardner: We save a thousand or two cubic yards of landfill waste by deconstructing the structures. If they don’t go to a landfill, they’ll either get burned on site or they’ll get pushed into a hole. It’s just better all the way around. There’s fewer nails left on the job site, there’s less to burn if they are going to burn anything. It’s an encouragement for landowners to want to clean up their land and to sometimes remove a structure that could become a liability. Plus, the fact that we’re reusing the materials makes it less wasteful than if you had to bring in new materials to finish a project.
There’s somewhat of a debate between whether or not prefab houses are more sustainable than building homes on site. Given Reclaimed Space homes are prefabricated, why do you believe that this is a more sustainable way to build?
Tracen Gardner: I think that every time I’ve seen a new construction go on, it’s a solid concrete slab, and there’s a lot of waste. The amount of waste that goes into building a 1,200 square foot space would probably use upwards of four dumpsters in the course of that construction, whereas we use less than half of a dumpster. New constructions typically use solid concrete slabs, and if you change your mind about something, you have a big concrete structure that you have to deal with. Whereas our homes, people are able to pick them up and move them at a later day. Some we’ve moved as many as six times. The ability to put them all together quickly lets us really be thorough with everything that we’re doing to maximize our resources.
What responsibility do you think that designers and architects have in terms of sustainability, if any at all?
Tracen Gardner: I think it’s so simple that you can’t ignore it, really. It’s so easy that you shouldn’t ignore it. You want the right amount of light to be let in and out depending on your climate – that means heat coming in and how you control it, how you shade it, or open it up. It’s not a really complex way of looking at it. It’s just trying to understand each climate and meeting the client’s needs. We’ve built homes made for 6.5 magnitude earthquakes in California, and we’ve done wind-strapping on the coast for 120 mile per hour hurricane winds. We hope to keep making the homes different and unique. That’s one thing that we’ve found that our clients really appreciate is that theirs is one of a kind. There are no two alike and there’s no way to really make two alike.