Finding new life for used building materials might be gaining momentum, but there are challenges for the salvaged materials market such as scaling up for large commercial projects and growing from niche to massive.
While the obstacles are considerable, the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, offers an example of what’s possible.
It was designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, which requires, among many other standards, the incorporation of salvaged materials — specifically, one salvaged item for every 500 square meters of design. Jimmy Mitchell, a sustainability engineer at Skanska USA, the construction manager for the project, said he wanted to do more than simply bring in some repurposed furniture or fixtures. He felt an obligation to aim for “massive salvage.”
So he asked the Lifecycle Building Center, an Atlanta store that sells donated materials for reuse, to source as many used two-by-fours as it could get. The boards would be incorporated into the building’s wooden floor decks, alternated between new two-by-sixes, which would hold up the weight. The two-by-fours would function as spacers, creating an aesthetically pleasing pattern.
Lifecycle, where Mr. Mitchell is a board member, came through with 25,000 linear feet of two-by-fours, all salvaged from television and movie sets from Georgia’s thriving film industry. That was enough, when nailed together with the new boards, to form 125 floor panels of the 498 required.
The design team also drew other used materials from campus buildings undergoing renovations. Thick pine boards from one became stair treads, and slate roof tiles from another were refashioned into bathroom wall tiling.
The building, funded by the Kendeda Fund, opened in the fall of 2019. It achieved certification in April after a 12-month evaluation of its operations.