Upcycling fabric structures: how we reuse our fabric structures

When we put fabric structures up, we do all we can to ensure their lifespan is as long as it can be. The key to this is planning and good maintenance, part of the design process is choosing a fabric that is going to give the best lifespan for the structure, as well as utilising our expertise to ensure the right connection details are specified to achieve that lifespan and ensuring the fabric can be easily recovered and renovated. In this blog post, we’ll look at the concept of fabric upcycling and re-use within our industry and examples of how we have given fabric new leases of life.

Structural fabric takes a long time to deteriorate but when it does it can start to look blotchy as the light comes through. This may mean it is no longer fit for the original purpose, but it still has plenty of life in it and can be used in plenty of other ways, it certainly does go to waste! We strive for zero fabric waste on all our projects, where fabric structures do eventually reach their end of design life and need to be replaced or dismantled, we make sure we do all we can to re-use the old fabric in the best possible way to benefit our local community.

There are a number of ways we do this find solutions ranging from working with local events, community centres and projects, charities and even our own employees, from using PVC to keep homeless people warm to lining employees shed roofs to protect against the wet winter weather getting in. We also use our contacts in the area who have a wide variety of uses for it, ensuring it doesn’t get sent immediately to landfill. We WILL find a solution for it, clean it, renovate it or upcycle it, and use it elsewhere

Below are some examples where we’ve successfully recommissioned and reused fabrics in different setting and situations.

Community Projects

We have worked with our local community centre Knowle West Media Centre on their affordable housing project. We donated mesh fabric off cuts and assisted them install it as fencing for their showcase prototype home, installed on a micro-site in Knowle West. See image below.  http://kwmc.org.uk/projects/wecanmake/

Festivals / Glastonbury Festival

We’ve had a long relationship with our local festival circuit, Glastonbury in particular, and many other festivals across the country. We’ve created a very large number of Glastonbury deck chairs out of old fabric, and wrapped numerous old railway sleepers in leftover PVC to make them into benches so they survive all weathers over the festival weekend.

Local Charities

We’ve donated leftover PVC fabric to a local homeless charities to use as ground sheets to keep the cold out, or for people to sleep on, to keep the cold from coming through the ground. PVC is effective for this because it is extremely layered and weatherproof.

We have other good relationships with some local charities, and the fabric for this tardis phone box was created using leftover blue PVC fabric from Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium ‘Sky Bridge’ cladding. It was donated to The Harvey Hext’s Trust for use on their fundraising Scarecrow Trail 2019 and can be stored and re-used for their future campaigning events.

Private Events

Even if we can’t find a use for old or waste pieces of fabric, within our industry and network we know people who can make use of it. We’ve been commissioned to build structures using leftover fabric for a number of local events on people’s land and private gardens. For example in 2019 our industry famous Exchange Square summer events canopy was finally dismantled for the last time in over 20 years of us installing it every year and storing it for them until the next event. This canopy had no more value to the client and they were not interested in keeping it, but it still has lots of life left. We donated it to a local farm in Somerset for their events – helping to provide and give back to the local community!

The pictures below showcases another example of some private events using some old fabric to provide a terrace canopy for a private party and to cover our makeshift pub – The Hairy Arms!

2nd April 2020

some of our clients