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In Depth Case Studies

Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center

Visible in this photo of the entrance to the Ecotrust office are recycled rubber floor tiles and armchair upholstery that contains recycled polyester fibers.

Photo credit: Ecotrust

Materials & Resources

The Natural Capital Center is inherently resource efficient, since it is largely a renovation of an existing building on a previously developed site. About 75% of the original building shell and interior elements were retained. The adjacent warehouse annex was deconstructed, and a 10,000 ft2 penthouse was added to the third floor. The structural timbers for this addition were sourced from the annex deconstruction as well as another nearby building that was deconstructed.

The building showcases an abundant collection of materials that were salvaged or reclaimed, include recycled content, were locally sourced, or are environmentally responsible in some other way. The examples that follow are only selected highlights.

Approximately two-thirds of the new wood used in the building—including lumber, plywood, particleboard, decking, and window components—was certified according to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. The project team took care to retain the original fir floor boards on the main floor of the building; these boards were eventually sanded and finished with a low-emission sealer and finish. The wood flooring in the third floor lobby is FSC-certified, Bolivian-sourced guariuba, a teak alternative not commonly marketed but used here to promote the maintenance of natural forest diversity. Also on the third floor are more conventional FSC-certified wood species. Some of this wood is of lower grade than would normally be used, a choice intended to enhance the aesthetics of the building. Douglas fir truss members, plywood, and wood wainscoting salvaged from the warehouse deconstruction were used for coat racks and hooks, stools, pedestals, building directories, tenant signs, a podium, and a work station.

The countertop of the Ecotrust reception desk, near the second-floor main entrance, has locally obtained glass scraps and ceramic aggregate cast into it. This area also features a collection of artifacts from the original building, including door pulleys obtained from that very floor. The fabric for the armchairs in the Ecotrust waiting area and window-drapery fabric in the second-floor conference center contain 78% post-industrial recycled polyester. Much of the office furniture on the second and third floors, including conference-room tables and chairs, contains between 40% and 100% recycled content, and many of the materials used for construction, such as steel, aluminum, and polypropylene, are be readily recyclable.

Floor tiles made from recycled tires with added color granules are used in the building. Due to the interlocking configuration of these tiles, adhesives were not required for installation. Marbleized linoleum—made from natural, renewable resources, including linseed oil, wood flour, pine rosins, and jute fiber—was also used as a floor and countertop covering in certain locations. The carpet tiles used in the building include recycled fibers, permit the replacement of only those tiles that become stained or worn, and can ultimately be returned to the manufacturer for recycling. Porcelain tile, made largely from unfired scrap generated during the manufacture of conventional tile, was also used for flooring.

Several hinged-type wood doors were salvaged from the warehouse deconstruction and used as a partition in one of the tenant office spaces. Other massive wood-and-steel barn-type hanging doors were also salvaged from the original warehouse and used as conference-room dividers.

Diversion of Construction & Demolition Waste

To encourage recycling of construction and demolition waste, recycling containers were clearly labeled, neatly maintained, conveniently located close to the work site, and frequently picked up. The team located recycling facilities that accepted polystyrene foam insulation board and polyethylene sheeting as well as the more typically recycled materials. Overall, 2,331 tons of waste, 98% of all construction and demolition debris generated on site, was diverted from the landfill.

Green Products Used

  • Certified Particleboard
  • Certified Wood Furniture
  • Certified Wood Products
  • HCFC-Free, Sprayed-On Polyurethane Insulation
  • Manufacturing-Scrap Ceramic Tile
  • Natural Linoleum Flooring
  • Recycled-Content Carpet Tile
  • Tongue-and-Groove Cork Plank Product

Green Strategies

  • Building Deconstruction
    • Reuse existing structure
    • Identify items to be reused from existing structure
  • Reusable Components
    • Use materials with integral finish
  • Recyclable Materials
    • Specify carpet from manufacturers who will recycle used carpet
  • Job Site Recycling
    • Set up labeled bins to keep recyclable materials separate
  • Toxic Upstream or Downstream Burdens
    • Use true linoleum flooring
    • Use natural cork flooring
  • Salvaged Materials
    • Use salvaged wood for finish carpentry
  • Materials and Wildlife Habitat
    • Use wood products from independently certified, well-managed forests for finish carpentry
  • Transportation of Materials
    • Prefer materials that are sourced and manufactured within the local area

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