Recycle That Mansion

1205517307Recently the Globe published a story about Jim and Kim Pallotta’s 21,000 square foot manse going up in Weston for approximately $21 million (though remember you heard it here first, back in our April 2007 home design feature). Sure, go ahead, be appalled. But wait, before getting all steamed up at the excessive waste and flagrant flaunting of greenhouse gases for a three-person nest, let’s be really cutting-edge. Let’s put our own recycling plan in place now so that when these enormous houses are orphaned by their prodigal parents, we’re ready.

It may not come as a shocker but big or small, Section-8 or Weston behemoth, American houses are mostly made of wood. That’s because for the past century, wood has been cheap, home grown, and easy to work with. In Europe, building with wood is a little pig of a folly—they don’t have enough forests to sustain this kind of construction, and after thousands of devastating fires, they’ve learned that if you want the thing to last, use brick or stone. So much for Europe.

Back to 21,000 square feet of materials: Wood is definitely recyclable. So we could just deconstruct the house, mill down the wood, and use it to build five 4,000 square foot houses (certainly not modest by most standards). Lucky for us, the Pallottas used stone facing which we could incorporate into the foundations of our five homes; the rest would look great as chimneys and landscaping elements. No doubt the huge house is extensively wired for today’s technology. Pulling wires isn’t fun, but it’s worth it—we could wire up our houses or donate the miles of copper to a developing country.

There’s another option out there that we Americans are slower to adopt: reuse. We could turn the enormous square footage into low-income housing—21 families who earn less that $75,000 per year would be delighted to have the space. Or we could turn it into a wacky themed restaurant-cum-hotel. Imagine the choices! Would you like to dine in the great room? The family room? The present-wrapping room? The dog’s resting room? How about a sweat shop? With enough sewing machines, we could convert the pad into the American Apparel of the East Coast, cranking out t-shirts and gold-lame panties right here in Massachusetts.

Photo by Joseph Melanson.