What’s New in Sustainable Design: What is Old & Weathered

7/6/2012 By Glenn Hasek

During conversations with vendors at this past May’s HD Expo & Conference in Las Vegas, one of the words that seemed to be mentioned most was “reclaimed.” Reclaimed materials are hot now in design—especially reclaimed wood. Yes, there are companies scouring the country in search of “deconstructed” buildings that have wood that can be used again. This wood is coming from barns, warehouses, churches, homes and other structures. If you have used reclaimed wood in a new project or renovation, I would love to know where you got it and how you used it.

There is a huge environmental upside to using reclaimed wood—for furniture, flooring, paneling, etc. Material destined for the landfill is diverted. Trees do not need to be cut down. Reclaimed wood tends to be locally sourced, reducing the energy required for transportation of raw materials. In projects pursuing LEED certification, reclaimed wood can contribute to the attainment of LEED credits.

For designers there is a long list of wood species available—oak, maple, walnut, pine, chestnut, elm, redwood, and hickory are just some examples. Each species has its own colors and grain patterns. A “vintage” look is easily attainable with reclaimed wood but it can also be easily treated to appear as new.

Reclaimed Wood on GLN

On the Green Lodging News website there are many examples of projects that have incorporated reclaimed wood. In an article on sustainable design, Dina Belon, principal, RUSH Hospitality, said, “Reclaimed wood is increasingly being used in boutique hotels and provide a visual that communicates a hotel’s belief in not wasting the Earth’s resources by throwing wood away but instead celebrating the patina of an aged material.”

When the h2hotel opened in Healdsburg, Calif., almost exactly two years ago, it opened with bed frames and cabinetry made from reclaimed woods such as American elm, acacia, and black walnut. The meeting room floor consists of reclaimed gym floor from a gym in Portland, Ore.

At the LEED Platinum Bardessono restaurant, hotel and spa in Yountville, Calif., all buildings were sculpted from salvaged wood found within a 100-mile radius of the hotel. Redwood wine barrels were repurposed to create ceilings; wood from reclaimed Claro walnut and Bay laurel trees form desks and doors.

As Dina Belon mentioned in her article, reclaimed wood and other reused materials help you tell your property’s green story. The materials provide an instant connection to nature and are a visual example of your commitment to sustainability.

Flip Side to Reclaiming Wood

While incorporating reclaimed materials in your property is important, so too is making sure that materials that leave your property are reused when there is a “demolition.” There are companies that can help you through this process. A quick Internet search turned up a company in Virginia that seeks to recycle or reclaim for reuse approximately 80 percent of the structure that is taken down. The property owner benefits from a tax deduction for the donations and saves money from not having to have debris hauled away. In the process there are also jobs that are supported. What is “waste” to you may be like gold to a company that processes reclaimable materials.

Sustainable design requires a new way of thinking about design and the use of reclaimed materials such as wood is a perfect example. Thinking “old” does not necessarily mean unsightly, feeble or fragile.

Once again, if you have used reclaimed wood or another reclaimed material in your property, I would love to learn about it. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com or by phone at (440) 243-2055.

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