Feature Article - October 2002
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Conserve Your Energy

Bright ideas that are easy on the environment—and your budget

By Elisa Kronish

Do It Again

Flaunt your facility as extra-environmentally friendly by combining energy-saving techniques with environment-saving products.

"Try to use things that don't deplete natural resources," says Susan Maxman owner of Susan Maxman and Partners in Philadelphia. Her firm uses as many recycled materials in its projects as possible. And it's getting easier and cheaper to do so. Now everything from the paint on the ceiling to the tile on the floor can be found in a recycled version.


For the Cusano Environmental Education Center in Philadelphia, Maxman used recycled timber for the framing. The logs had been found sunk into a river.

"They were remilled and made into these wonderful-looking timbers," Maxman says. Another project used recycled timbers found in old loft buildings to make beautiful wood floors.

"Many more people are doing it than you'd think," she says.

This award-winning visitor center and educational facility also receives kudos for its rubber floor mats made from old tires, floor tile made from auto glass, deck from recycled plastic and roof covered with recycled steel shingles. And if that's not enough, the water is also recycled. Using a wastewater treatment system, water from the visitor center restrooms is treated and recycled for uses other than drinking, like watering plants in the greenhouse.


Even dry wall can be found made from recycled newspaper. It costs exactly the same, performs exactly the same and can be bought at the same store as dry wall made with all virgin materials, says John Barrie, president of John Barrie Associates Architects in Ann Arbor, Mich. His company also uses a ceramic tile product that is made with 90-percent-recycled automobile windshields and light bulbs.

He suggests asking for the price difference between recycled and virgin materials whenever you're building new, adding to a structure or rehabbing an existing one. When you choose recycled over raw, you're making a difference.

"You're stimulating the infrastructure for recycling and you're keeping things out of landfills," Barrie says. "I think you're showing your values by making this decision."