The Catholic University of America

Nov. 18, 2013 

Harvesting the Potential of Trash

  9/11 service day

Students install the reclaimed wood floor.

The entire wood floor within HARVEST HOME and 80 percent of the rest of the wood used to build it were given new life through a harvesting effort led by Bradley Guy, assistant professor of architecture. Guy teaches courses on sustainable materials and deconstruction.

In the summer of 2012, Guy and one of his deconstruction classes began harvesting materials for the HARVEST HOME project — beginning with the flooring that came out of a 140-year-old church in Ohio. The class deconstructed the church and rebuilt a chapel on site. Guy retained some of the materials not reused at that location, including the flooring that was installed in the house and professionally refinished.

A handful of students volunteered at various times over the next year — some of them working through their spring break — to harvest wood from other locations, including a recycling plant undergoing demolition in Baltimore, the wood plank roof of a building in Washington, D.C., and an old barn in Maryland.

“In the spirit of ‘Harvest,’ harnessing solar energy and conserving or reusing water are a given,” Guy said. “I hoped our project and the harvesting of materials could set our team apart from others.”

A lot of the wood was taken to a mill in Maryland where the owner focuses on “urban forestry” — finding ways to use trees that are cut down in cities instead of having them turned into mulch. Guy and the students processed some of the wood on campus. Processing the wood salvaged from the roof in D.C. included removing nails and stripping off layers of tar. “The true spirit of reclamation is to work with what you get — including a variation of colors and species — to work around nail holes and with short and long pieces.”

Altogether, Guy estimates that there are more than half a dozen species of wood incorporated throughout the house.

Aside from the sustainable aspects of harvesting materials, “there’s an added value when we talk about the environment and people’s feelings,” Guy said. “The veterans who will live here — they may also feel like they are discarded, or ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ But if a person knows that the house they are living in was made out of something reclaimed and given a second life through hard work and care, maybe he or she can feel some inspiration for renewal as well.”



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