Deciding whether existing materials can or should be saved is a key aspect of most renovation work. But conserving resources while sparing landfills is only part of the story.

Aesthetically, keeping or revealing original materials forges a link between past and present, as evidenced in Berkeley, Calif.-based ELS Architecture and Urban Design's renovation of theDowntown Berkeley YMCA. A city-registered building dating from 1910 (with three subsequent additions), the Downtown Y was rich in brick and solid wood — materials once commonly used as substrates, rough framing or infill, but often unaffordable as such today. ELS stripped away layers of plaster and gypsum board, resulting in a new-old fitness center of brick walls, restored windows and an accent wall of zero-VOC-stained structural plywood.


Paul Steinbach is Senior Editor of Athletic Business.