A recent heavy rainstorm in St. Louis caused a storm drain backup and minor flooding in the gymnasium in the basement of Olin Residence Hall at the School of Medicine. The WUSM facilities team was able to solve the drainage problem to prevent flooding in future rain events, but the gym floor was not able to be repaired. The wood flooring had become waterlogged in some areas, causing the floor to buckle and warp. This meant that the entire gym floor needed to be removed and replaced.
Construction and demolition typically create a lot of waste, but that doesn’t mean it always goes to the landfill! Contractors for WashU construction projects keep track of their different waste streams and the majority can usually be diverted from landfills through recycling programs. In some instances, the material can be repurposed or reused, which is best because nothing is discarded through the landfill or recycling.
The WUSM facilities leadership team worked with the Sustainability Coordinator to find a way to donate the discarded wood. The maple flooring was thoughtfully removed in sections and stored on pallets until the team was able to find a home for it. A small portion of the wood was donated to local nonprofit Perennial, which focuses on using repurposed and salvaged materials in their community workshop and for their classes. Sustainability and waste reduction are part of the mission of Perennial, making them a perfect home for our discarded wood.
The majority of the flooring, about 5,000 square feet, was donated to another local St. Louis organization, Refab. When a building is slated for demolition, Refab’s team swoops in to collect salvageable materials to give a new life to often old and one-of-a-kind materials. The materials are used to provide hands on experience for people interested in careers in green industry and using refabricated materials. If you would like to have a piece of WashU in your home, swing by the Refab warehouse store now! The wood panels are the perfect size for a DIY coffee table.
In total, nearly 10,000 pounds of waste were diverted from the landfill and repurposed through local organizations. Additionally, by donating to local organizations who also sell their products locally, we are continuing to move towards a circular economy in our region with unique and exciting businesses thriving all around us.