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Reclamation, reuse and the City Wooden Challenge

Reclamation, reuse and the City Wooden Challenge


Because of illness, growth or just outdated age, roughly 36 million timber come down annually in cities throughout the USA. And with extra ferocious storms ripping by way of our landscapes — to not point out a altering local weather’s affect on our tree’s ecosystems — that quantity will solely improve. (The hundreds of timber at present falling throughout California are a distressing instance of that reality.) 

When downed in an city setting a overwhelming majority of timber are burned, mulched or landfilled, their embedded carbon and an estimated $786 million in annual financial worth misplaced to the ether. 

In the meantime, our nation’s ample urge for food for wooden merchandise solely grows. With a collective consumption behavior of 50 billion board ft of lumber annually, throwing away these fallen commodities appears not simply wasteful, however downright silly. 

One has to marvel, why would you waste good wooden? 

Enter the City Wooden Challenge 

The tossing of downed timber is far the identical because the demolition of outdated constructing materials, a subject I expounded upon a couple of brief months in the past. Slightly than leveraging the fabric we now have readily available with a little bit of gumption and elbow grease, we throw it away in lieu of the brand new. As I famous then, we’d like “extra distributed organizations inside the deconstruction and reuse sector [to] develop the market’s choices, with the added bonus of constructing resilience and financial exercise in native communities.” 

That’s why I used to be delighted to listen to about the City Wooden Challenge

Fashioned in 2018 underneath the auspices of the USDA Forest Service, the City Wooden Challenge started in Baltimore when social service enterprise Humanium and fashionable home-furnishings model Room & Board helped kind a novel public-private partnership.

Reclaiming wooden from buildings slated for demolition and concrete timber eliminated for illness, upkeep and storm harm, the mission created jobs for these with boundaries to employment whereas diverting waste from landfill and carbon from the ambiance. In flip, Room & Board created distinctive furnishings items from the precious, salvaged materials. The end result? A win, win, win, benefiting the town of Baltimore socially, environmentally and economically. 

Since its inception, the City Wooden Challenge has collectively rescued an estimated 180,000 board ft of lumber and expanded sourcing throughout the USA, leveraging materials from Anaheim and Sacramento in California; Detroit, Minneapolis and — most not too long ago — New York Metropolis.

We try to make the most of extra renewable and recycled supplies wherever potential. Partnering with cities throughout the nation to divert city wooden from landfills and to create a round provide chain aligns with our long-term imaginative and prescient.


In its latest incarnation, Room & Board has united with Tri-Lox, a Brooklyn, New York-based millwork and design operation. Collectively they’re tapping into decommissioned water tanks that dot New York’s iconic skyline and including to Room & Board’s reclamation efforts. All advised, the corporate diverts an estimated 200 timber yearly from the waste stream and affords roughly 30 merchandise sourced from the mission’s lumber. 

To study extra concerning the City Wooden Challenge, I emailed some inquiries to Emily McGarvey, director of sustainability at Room & Board. The next change has been edited for size and readability. 

Suz Okie: Why is the City Wooden Challenge a strategic precedence for Room & Board? 

Emily McGarvey: Wooden is our most-used materials. Sourcing it responsibly simply is sensible. And with 90 % of our merchandise manufactured in the USA, we’re in a novel place to maintain supplies and manufacturing inside the nation. 

Since our founding in 1980, sustainable practices have been basic to our firm. As a founding member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, we acknowledge there’s extra to do, from higher sourcing and extra accountable supplies to investing within the well-being of individuals and communities. Our aspiration is to be a sustainability chief that positively impacts society and the world. We prioritize social and environmental points primarily based on their materials significance to Room & Board [and] have organized our high precedence points into three pillars: Higher Merchandise; Higher for Folks; and Higher for the Planet.

In that vein, we prioritize American craft, trend-proof model and being sustainable by design. We try to make the most of extra renewable and recycled supplies wherever potential. Partnering with cities throughout the nation to divert city wooden from landfills and to create a round provide chain aligns with our long-term imaginative and prescient. We will prioritize this mission due to sturdy management help and prospects that deliver these heirloom high quality merchandise into their houses.

Okie: Inform me a bit concerning the City Wooden Challenge’s New York Metropolis growth and the wooden you’re sourcing there.

McGarvey: Every metropolis presents a novel alternative. In New York Metropolis, our accomplice Tri-Lox is popping decommissioned water towers into the Millbridge Frames (accessible now) and the Artemis Tub assortment (launches in April). These decommissioned water towers are constituted of Californian Redwoods and Alaskan Cedar. 

Tri-Lox can also be piloting with the NYC Park System to make use of salvaged oak timber and rework them into Stanley Wall Cabinets (launching in late January 2023). The town is discovering that as its water desk rises as a result of local weather change, a few of its timber is not going to react effectively. These timber embody London airplane sycamore and white and purple oak. 

We’re piloting options as these timber will in the end have to be changed with species that may react higher to a altering local weather. 

Okie: What challenges has Room & Board encountered in leveraging reclaimed materials? 

McGarvey: We’re constructing a round provide chain for city wooden with many companions. It’s thrilling to be a part of the method and does require endurance and adaptability. In our efforts, we’ve seen three fundamental challenges.

  1. Design: Turning materials destined for the waste stream into lovely, heirloom-quality furnishings may be an unimaginable design problem. Our designers are creatively designing merchandise to the reclaimed wooden’s highest worth by understanding its distinctive high quality and character and likewise by assembly our design ethos: timeless and fashionable, pure supplies, artisan crafted and top quality. 
  2. Sourcing: Inside this new round system, the provision chain must be related and typically created. By partnering with the federal government, nonprofits, startups and current distributors, Room & Board helps the creation of the provision chain wanted to take the fabric from city areas to preprocessing to manufacturing and, lastly, to Room & Board showrooms. This takes endurance and adaptability for a provide chain to develop that did not beforehand exist.
  3. Scale: To in the end scale reclaimed wooden, there’s a want for a constant and dependable amount of high quality wooden. And extra dimensional lumber is required to create high-volume objects like eating room tables and dressers. Because the round provide chain grows and matures, it can turn out to be extra environment friendly, bringing prices nearer to mainstream prices. That may permit extra corporations to hitch us in utilizing extra reclaimed wooden.

As McGarvey suggests, extra organizations, partnerships and hyperlinks within the provide chain are wanted to construct a strong system for reuse and reclamation of city wooden. However for these keen to place within the effort, there are financial and environmental financial savings for the taking: Very like the cities inside which they fall, every downed tree represents a novel alternative. 

On the threat of repeating myself, from the place I sit the additional effort feels “effectively price it.” 

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