Renovation reuses/recycles 96%

3 min read

When work began on the lower level of 625 Mass. Ave., the challenge wasn’t simply to renovate a space that had once been library stacks into space for Harvard College Library Technical Services (HCLTS) staff, but to do the work with as little environmental impact as possible. On both counts, the project was a success – the lower level is now an attractive workspace that houses dozens of employees, and approximately 96 percent of the items used in the project – including desks, chairs, lamps, flooring material and even 18 tons of library shelving – were either recycled or reused.

By far the largest amount of material reused or recycled during the project was the library shelving. Of the 36,000 pounds of shelving removed from the building, approximately one-third was donated to the Harvard Forest department. Other Harvard programs also received some of the surplus shelving. What remained was reused during the renovations.

Though the project far exceeded the University guideline that 75 percent of construction materials used in capital projects be recycled or reused, HCL Director of Operations and Security Paul Bellenoit said working sustainably simply makes sense.

“The responsible thing to do is to find a home for unused materials,” Bellenoit said. “This was very expensive library shelving that could be reused, so it was logical for us to find someone who could repurpose it.”

The renovation was part of the reorganization of HCLTS completed last spring, and involved the reconstruction of the lower level of 625 Mass. Ave., as well as the relocation of more than 80 staff members in the building. Sustainability was a consideration, Bellenoit said, literally from the ground up, and as part of the project, the existing rubber floor tiles were removed, and the pieces sent to a rubber recycling plant in Boston.

Shelving and flooring weren’t the only items workers were careful to reuse or recycle. All the office furniture and chairs installed in the lower level were reused, Bellenoit said, and each of the 147 fluorescent light fixtures removed during construction were disassembled and their components recycled.

In addition to recycling or reusing more than 96 percent of the construction debris from the project, sustainability was also a factor when installing new materials in the building. Energy-efficient lighting was used throughout the lower level, Bellenoit said, and occupancy sensors were installed to reduce electricity usage. Rather than traditional carpet, workers installed carpet tiles, so in the case of a rip or stain, workers need only replace one or two of the tiles, not the entire carpet, thus reducing waste.

“We reused everything we had – every bin, every desk, every book truck,” Bellenoit said. “It simply makes sense to do these projects this way.”