A green demolition project at Simmons University in Boston recovered over a dozen tons (24,000 pounds) of material including furniture, fixtures, and glassware items.
This massive reuse undertaking emerged from the remodeling of the University’s Park Science Center. The project entailed one year’s worth of planning and coordination among Simmons University staff, Elkus Manfredi Architects (and their dedicated team of staff volunteers), the City of Boston, Skanska, The Carbon Leadership Forum of Boston – Reuse Group, and RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks), making up “The Reuse Team”.
Advanced planning is key to the success of material reuse and deconstruction projects. The timeline that The Reuse Team has followed so far is shown below. This timeline can serve as a model for other institutions and businesses planning for similar projects.
- June 2021: Elkus Manfredi inquired about participating in the City of Boston’s Deconstruction Initiative per Simmons’ commitment to environmental quality on campus.
- March 2022: Skanska (Simmons’ general contractor) was referred to RecyclingWorks through the City’s Deconstruction Initiative for the Park Science Center. During this process, the Reuse Team learned about the opportunities for waste diversion in the building and about the project.
- May 2022: Skanska conducted a walk-through of the Park Science Center with demolition companies and informed them about participating in the deconstruction Initiative.
- May-August 2022: Simmons removed assets to keep or donate for reuse.
- September 2022: Elkus Manfredi Architects, the City of Boston, RecyclingWorks, and the Carbon Leadership Forum did a walk through the Park Science Center to document assets. RecyclingWorks drafted a Waste Management (WM) Plan (click here for a sample WM plan) and compiled a list of reuse organizations and other potential outlets. Asset photos were circulated to potential reuse organizations.
- October-November 2022: The City of Boston and Elkus Manfredi Architects conducted a building walk-through with the reuse organizations. Reuse organizations submitted proposals of items they were interested in removing.
- January-2023: Simmons approved reuse organizations that provided no-cost reclamation. Two of the main organizations needed assistance with labor to remove the items, therefore Elkus Manfredi Architects coordinated volunteers to facilitate the removal of various fixtures and furnishings from the building. Reuse volunteers remove desired assets (mostly unattached) from the building and staged them for pick-up by Household Goods Acton and Boston Building Resources.
- February-April 2023: Elkus Manfredi Architects, the City of Boston, and RecyclingWorks, organized several non-profit groups, teachers, and private artists to remove assets.
A remarkable total of 12.2 tons of material (and counting) was recovered, comprising a diverse range of items. Among them were more than 125 furniture pieces, including desks, cabinetry, cabinetry hardware, chairs, stools, lab tables, and equipment such as microscopes and computer tables. Additionally, the project donated 300 pounds of glassware, including beakers, test tubes, flasks, specimen containers, and petri dishes.
By choosing the path of reuse, this project saved on disposal costs and labor costs associated with demolishing and disposing of the usable items left in the building during the demolition phase. Apart from the investment of time and labor, Simmons University incurred zero expenses for any of the project’s reuse solutions. Here are some of the organizations that accepted items for reuse:
- Goodwill accepted clothing, shoes, dishware, and office supplies.
- Boston Building Resources accepted desks, filing cabinets, tables, and paper cutters.
- Household Goods accepted chairs, end tables, bookcases, and kitchen appliances.
For all items that were donated to non-profit organizations, Simmons University is eligible for tax write-offs. Some non-profit reuse organizations provide appraisal and tax forms as part of their service.
As with any project of this scale, there were challenges. Any assets that were attached to the walls (such as hand dryers, water filling stations, and fume hoods) could not be reclaimed for reuse due to asbestos contamination.
If your business or institution is considering a material reuse or deconstruction project, RecyclingWorks C&D Best Management Practices is a great resource to start with. If you are seeking reuse outlets, try our Find-A-Recycler search tool. And if you would like a free consultation to help you identify options and establish a plan for success, please contact us at 888-254-5525 or Info@RecyclingWorksMA.com.