Sustainability

Dalhousie University demolition project sees salvaging success

Ecology Action Centre re-using materials from Dalhousie

The Ecology Action Centre, at the corner of May and Fern Lanes, will be receiving salvaged materials from the Dalhousie construction site.
The Ecology Action Centre, at the corner of May and Fern Lanes, will be receiving salvaged materials from the Dalhousie construction site.   Emma Meldrum

Buildings on South Street may be gone, but pieces of them will live on at the Ecology Action Centre. Dalhousie could have sent the demolished structures to the dump. Instead, it recycled and salvaged as much as possible.

Construction has started on the new fitness centre at Dalhousie University. Before backhoes could start digging, several homes and university buildings had to be removed – or moved.

Rochelle Owen is director at Dalhousie’s Office of Sustainability. She said that interested people could have taken the buildings for free, but the cost of moving the structures would have been expensive. That’s likely why no one offered to take one of the homes.

Salvaging from the demolition site

Dalhousie didn’t stop its sustainability efforts there. The next step was to offer building materials to people interested in using them for construction or renovation projects.

The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) jumped at the opportunity.

“Different pieces of the houses and Eliza Ritchie [residence] and also some other properties on campus, their material was salvaged for Ecology Action Centre’s renovations,” Owen explained.

Jordan Willett works with Solterre, an architecture and green building consulting firm. He has been working with the EAC to integrate the used materials into the building.

“With economy and aesthetics in mind, our crew salvaged ceiling lights…exit signs and emergency lights,” Willett said in an email.

He said that 4,500 kg of material was salvaged from the demolition site.

Some items are practical, while other materials are being used creatively. Willett said that door panels from the Killam library will be repurposed into a boardroom table that will seat twenty people.

Construction has started on South Street. The site was once the home of Eliza Ritchie Hall. It will soon house a new fitness center.
Construction has started on South Street. The site was once the home of Eliza Ritchie Hall. It will soon house a new fitness centre.   Emma Meldrum

Integrating used items at the EAC

Emma Norton works at the Ecology Action Centre. She’s most excited about receiving salvaged doors to be used in the renovation.

“If we get doors that aren’t in their frame and we need to build a frame for them, we might need to change the design of our building to match the door,” Norton explained. “All the labour costs associated with making the door fit in our building might be more expensive than buying a new door.”

But Norton said they got lucky, since all the doors from Dalhousie came in their frames.

“They’re going to save us a lot of time and money.”

Norton said that salvaging has the potential to make a project cheaper. But the EAC has environmental impacts in mind as well.

“What’s really exciting for me is that the materials we have salvaged probably would have gone to the dump otherwise,” Norton said.

Recycling and building sustainably

When salvaging is done, Dalhousie’s construction company recycles as much as it can.

“Depending on the age of the house, if it’s probably 1970s or older, it will maybe have lead paint or asbestos,” Rochelle Owen explained. “We have to strip out those hazards first. By doing that, we make what’s left a lot cleaner.”

The school pays less to get rid of cleaner materials.

Sustainability efforts won’t stop when after demolition. The new fitness centre will have to meet the same standards as other new buildings on campus – LEED Gold or higher.

Owen says Dalhousie is looking at a number of plans to keep the new centre sustainable: everything from renewable energy to LED lighting to sustainable transportation infrastructure.

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