Waste Less District: An Exploration of Architecture's Role in the Waste Stream

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Virginia Tech


The idiom goes, "what is one man's trash is another man's treasure." In our 21st century economy, one man's trash is less commonly another's treasure as often as it is pollution. It is well documented that the majority of human waste ends up in on the side of roads, or in forests and oceans if not in landfills or incinerated. The disposability of items in our consumer culture is now commonplace. We are exacerbating our problems by throwing away single-use and barely-used items again and again without a feasible, realistic, and responsible solution for the end their life cycle. While our habitual buying and scrapping is continually increasing, the industrial buildings that process our waste are pushed to the outskirts of urban centers where they are most needed due to aesthetics, noises, and odors. These suburban and rural locations put an enormous economic and resource strain on cities. Architecture has the opportunity and responsibility to play an important role in remedying these issues related to waste facilities and processes.

Architecture as an art form has largely abandoned these and similar industrial typologies as building design problems. They are mostly undertaken by engineers who design them for economic and process efficiencies. But there are unique challenges to be overcome with creative solutions, what architects do best. As a part of this process, architects can better design facilities so that they can be located within city limits and fight the "not in my backyard" stigmas associated with waste management. Ultimately architects can strive to improve civic life for citizens while also improving the means and methods of city-maintenance issues related to waste.

At this intersection of waste and architecture, this thesis explores how a facility that settles into the dense urban fabric of Washington D.C. can play a role in the city's waste steam in order to benefit the local community and economy.



food, waste, circular economy