I recently attended the grand opening for the Lifecycle Building Center (LBC), a new non-profit organization focused on building material reuse. The result of long hours of labor by many dedicated people, the LBC’s stated mission is to “make the lifecycle use of the built environment more efficient and sustainable.”
Currently established as a subsidiary of the USGBC Georgia chapter, the center’s ultimate goal is to be an independent organization that is fully self-sustaining. The LBC has an impressive board of directors, including professionals from Perkins + Will, Southface, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Skanska, and HOK. Currently an all-volunteer effort, they have already begun collecting surplus building products and are starting to sell them for reuse.
Community revitalization goals
The center is located on the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile loop of mostly abandoned rail lines that is currently being developed into a transit greenway consisting of trails, parks, and a future transit system that will connect many of intown Atlanta’s neighborhoods.
The center’s founders hope to play a role in the development of underutilized properties adjacent to this corridor. They are also planning local community outreach efforts, including hiring residents to work there as well as teach building skills to people in this somewhat down-at-the-heels part of town.
A great building
LBC is located in a small warehouse building that is attached to a beautiful 1914 factory building that they plan to take over as they grow. The building covers 72,000 square feet of space, and is little changed from its early days as a factory. The building includes operable clerestory windows and floors made of wood pavers.
There are plans in place to certify the warehouse under the Living Building Challenge – a very lofty goal. I am skeptical (is anyone surprised?), but I look forward to seeing how this develops.
Atlanta has never been a great place for recycling and salvaging building materials. Historically, landfill fees have been low, handling costs high, real estate values always increasing, and the demand for previously used materials low.
As tipping fees rise, labor prices drop, and real estate values remain low, I expect that there will be more demand for salvaged products. This model has been successful in other markets, and I have high hopes that it can work in Atlanta. It will be neither easy or fast, but I think the time is right for LBC to succeed.