Preserving the Environment

This Building Is Made From Trash. Yes, Really

October 27, 2014
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This Building Is Made From Trash. Yes, Really
The Brock Environmental Center was made of salvaged materials such as old wood and fixtures. Brock Environmental Center.
You never know what you'll find at the bottom of a dumpster.

What’s the best way to build a green building?  Well, for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the answer is dumpster diving.

Yes, you read that right. For the past year and a half, members of the foundation have been turning garbage bins inside out in search of materials to construct the Brock Environmental Center building in Virginia Beach, Va.

Why are they digging through the garbage? Because the CBF is hoping to earn the highest standard in green construction with LEED Platinum status and a Living Building Challenge Certification.

In order to meet green building standards like LEED, Green Globes or the Living Building Challenge, recycled materials have to be used. And with about 160 million tons of unwanted used materials from home renovations being tossed in landfills every year (according to the Environmental Protection Agency), there are plenty of options in trash bins.

Among the finds? Sinks, doors, mirrors, counters and cabinets. Additionally, the doors and windows of the Brock Environmental Center will be trimmed with old wooden school bleachers, while the floor will be a resurfaced maple floor of an elementary school gymnasium. Old champagne corks will double as knobs and drawer pools, student art tables are counters and the center’s cabinets will be made from old wooden paneling, according to the Huffington Post.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the building, though, will be the exterior siding. At the bottom of the rivers and bayous of the Deep South are what’s referred to as “old sinker cypress logs.” The Foundation dug up those logs, which will now serve as the center’s siding. The best part? The wood acts as a natural, chemical-free weather proofing material.

While working on the project, Christy Everett, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Hampton Roads Director, has noticed the scalability of dumpster diving to create sustainable buildings.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this work is that you don’t need new materials to build a new building,” Everett writes in her article for the Huffington Post. “The Brock Environmental Center not only raises the bar on smart buildings; it can serve as a replicable model for raising community awareness in localities around the country and the world.”

And with that, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is finding that all you need is something old to make something green.

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