Stories of Reuse Successes or Regrets

Do you have project examples where you successfully incorporated diversion, deconstruction, or reuse? What was the win and what do you think allowed it to be successful? Alternatively, did you attempt reuse in a project but it fell through? What was the obstacle?

I’ll start with an example of each:
We were successful in reusing on-site doors in a renovation by locating them in back-of-house spaces where aesthetics were less of a concern for the owner. This is a helpful strategy when people are concerned that salvage won’t “look good” (even though that’s not necessarily true!).

We were unsuccessful in salvaging marble toilet partitions from a project during design because we didn’t resist initial pushback that they would be gross or that they didn’t have a good use (reasons that could’ve been addressed or designed around!) A second attempt to salvage them during demolition phase was too late; they were smashed to pieces.


Thanks for starting this discussion, @olivia.huang! Exciting to start to see these discussions happening more often online and on projects!

We are proposing reclaimation audits on new construction projects that have demolition planned. It has been great to see people engage and fill a creative itch to think about how things can be reused. In one particular project, we proposed the use of UrbanMachine to salvage glulam from an old, small office. Ultimately, challenges with the contractor and tight schedule limited what we could do. They ended up keeping the glulam, but it’s pretty damaged and they’re not sure what they’ll do with it. The takeaway was make sure assessment is done early, contractor is engaged and the expectation is included in the schedule, and a plan for what the materials will be used for once salvaged is in place (Urban Machine is also doing some cool work to turn salvaged lumber into DLT). We’ll see what happens and we’ll keep proposing!

The SEI Circularity Committee (shoutout chair @d.bergsagel) is working on compiling case studies for structural reuse. @afeitel and KL&A has some inspiring projects as well. And I’d also share this recent write up on the cost savings (with the tradeoff of more time to complete) for an interior fitout in the UK:

This may be a digression, but at the root of this question is the work it takes to mend and maintain what we’ve already developed. I revisit this image from the book, All We Can Save, often for inspiration :slightly_smiling_face:

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I like the idea of moving older things to back of house spaces.

We have this case study where we reused many things on site and then exported some things to other people off site.

We’re trying to do this on other projects as well, making some progress, but it’s challenging to design with and procure salvaged materials.


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@Kjell_Anderson Awesome project! For the off-site salvaged items, how did the project source them? Did you specify reclaimed wood for example and the contractor found sources and fabricators?

Thanks, Olivia, it was a great project where we learned a lot!

The design team did nearly all of the material research on salvaged/local materials ourselves. It was small enough that this was possible, and involved many novel conversations with suppliers, our contractor, the client, etc. It took more design time than most projects since we went looking for specific local and salvaged products that would combine into a cohesive project.

Beyond what’s on the website, here are some details:

Some carpet tiles were sourced from a warehouse where new purchased stock for other projects was not needed and was being stored for a short time until it would be sent to the landfill. We were not aware of such a source but found it by asking questions of a local distributor.

The feature wall is made from offcuts from a wood manufacturer that were going to be combusted for heat. We brainstormed internally as to what would constitute a carbon neutral-ish material for a feature wall, and after some looking around this seemed like a reasonable source.

We looked for refinishing of the wood doors to slightly change the color but were unable to do it for a reasonable cost, so they remained in place. Typical WBLCA accounting suggested that it would be a biogenic carbon win to landfill the doors and buy new ones…

Jenn Chen at our office has many more stories.

Shout out to Sellen for the great job of working with us for procurement and especially for taking demo’d material from the site, bagging it, and delivering it to be reused elsewhere.

Kjell Anderson FAIA, LEED Fellow
Principal, Director of Sustainable Design

LMN Architects

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