The title is robbed from my favorite writer on building design and architecture, Stewart Brand in ‘How Buildings Learn’.

I’ve twisted the meaning a bit.

We have a choice when it comes to specifying the materials we use in buildings.

1 – High Road – Spending more on something that lasts (usually because it’s a slow moving part of the building, or something that won’t change too much).

2 – Low Road – Spending less on something that will likely need to change in the not-too-distant future.

I don’t believe this is a sustainable versus non sustainable choice. Both should be low impact.

I do believe this is a choice based around use. Can your choice of materials be based on a rate of change measurement. Different parts of building’s recycle at different rates.

I had this choice to make recently. Slate worktop versus a chipboard laminate finish.

It was easy actually. A domestic residence, a low rate of change, a timeless finish required that would last and still look good over time.

The hard choice? Finding the additional money from somewhere else in the budget to pay for it. It came down to choosing cheaper unitry and other small savings elsewhere.

Confirmation that ‘Use’ should drive specification and other decisions in the wider building project, not aesthetics alone. Here we managed to consider both.

As a bonus our choice will likely have more than one life in its current form

I’d be interested to know where it will end up in the next hundred years. It’s satisfying to know that someone will reclaim it and use it again.

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