While the Industry Sets Its Sights on New-material Health and Transparency, the Most Significant Impact for Sustainable Design May Be Right under Its Nose. Here’s Why Material Reuse Deserves Another Look.

“I think many times we just don’t think to that side of it,”Trachsel observes.“If we think about the product’s safety so it can be reused it’s very important to think about staging, transportation and handling, and writing plans around that, really.”

A 14-foot flywheel from the building’s original steam power plant—part of the building’s printing and publishing origins.

A 14-foot flywheel from the building’s original steam power plant—part of the building’s printing and publishing origins.

Another critical consideration for material removal and reuse is the issue of storage. If materials or furniture are deemed to be in good condition, the design team needs to develop a plan to relocate the materials where they can be housed safely during remodeling.

“Storage is big,” Hopper says. He recalls a recent project during which a client wanted to reuse some conference tables and placed them in storage for several months during the construction phase. The facility ended up losing the tables, which added unexpected costs to the project.

“If you’re going to reuse existing wood-plank flooring, for instance, it has to be removed, obviously, and stored somewhere it can be kept safe from damage, whether it’s impact-related or moisture-related or anything else that can happen to it during up to six months between when it’s removed and when it’s reinstalled,” Hopper suggests.

Ultimately, the key to successful removal and storage of materials comes down to effective communication across the design team.

“Close communication with the contractor to make sure they have clear instructions on how to preserve and protect the materials that are being reused or the things that are
in place so there’s no confusion around their responsibility during demolition and construction and to make sure things are preserved is key,” Gaffney explains.

Trachsel notes that at Gensler, internal communication is equally important in the quest for salvaged materials—not just among the design team members for one project, but across the entire firm. With anywhere from 40 to 50 projects going on at once, Trachsel says Gensler has been increasingly sharing information between project teams to take advantage of the existing materials at their disposal.

“If there’s building components that one team knows the project is going to remove, there may be another team that may need that building component and, being local, we can share the resource and say, ‘Hey, your project is right across the street from mine; let’s try
to communicate and see if we can have our teams move your material to my site’,” she says.

Counting the Costs

Reusing building materials and furnishings makes perfect sense environmentally speaking. What about financially? Are cost savings a given? It depends.

Hopper points to a recently completed project in which Gensler realized a 10 percent savings, totaling $70,000 overall—a significant portion of which can be attributed to material reuse and time and shipping costs that were avoided because materials were already onsite. “There’s definitely a cost savings,” he suggests.

About the Author

Robert Nieminen

Robert Nieminen is a freelance writer; the former editor of Interiors & Sources magazine; and retrofit’s editor at large, specializing in interiors. Under his direction, Interiors & Sources was the recipient of several publishing awards, as well as a pioneer of sustainability reporting.

Be the first to comment on "While the Industry Sets Its Sights on New-material Health and Transparency, the Most Significant Impact for Sustainable Design May Be Right under Its Nose. Here’s Why Material Reuse Deserves Another Look."

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*