Recycled materials cut costs, speed renovations

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The School of Medicine has partnered with the Facilities Division to cut costs and complete projects faster by recycling casework and furniture for future projects.

“This started more than 10 years ago when the cost of new building materials started to skyrocket,” said Robert Witherspoon, manager of facilities and standards in the School of Medicine Dean’s Office. “We realized we could save both money and time by reusing what we had.”

Witherspoon said the School of Medicine has made it a priority to recycle reusable materials and support UAB’s sustainability initiatives.

“Without recycling casework, it would be thrown out and probably end up in landfills,” Witherspoon said. “We work hard to do the right thing, not only for our budget but for our environment. There is only one planet Earth, and we should help take care of it.”

Materials, including furniture, equipment and casework that can be repurposed for renovation projects, are stored in the School of Medicine Warehouse, which is leased through UAB Real Estate Services.

“The School of Medicine and Facilities are committed to sustainability,” Witherspoon said. “We recognized that refurbishment and reuse of casework saves the university money, and it also helps our projects be completed more quickly because we don’t have to wait for manufacturing, shipping and installation of new materials.”

"It is important for all of us to be good stewards of our assets, so we are committed to reusing materials when we can."

Witherspoon said all School of Medicine renovation projects come through his office, and approved projects are routed to either Express Project Services or the Architecture and Engineering Department, which are involved in the project’s design and oversight. Witherspoon said the Facilities project manager takes responsibility for the removal and reinstallation of casework.

“During the design phase, we evaluate the project with the supervisor and architect to determine if we can refurbish or reuse existing casework, or if we need to purchase new casework,” Witherspoon said. “It is important for all of us to be good stewards of our assets, so we are committed to reusing materials when we can.”

The cost of renovations can be substantial, and Witherspoon said it’s often cheaper to refinish recycled casework. Recycled materials, including casework and fume hoods, used to renovate the Wallace Tumor Institute saved the university approximately $835,000.

“On floors four to six, we were able to use almost all of the existing casework and reconfigure it to fit the new lab layout,” Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon said the School of Medicine has also shared recycled furniture and casework with other entities on campus.

“We were able to provide tables, chairs and desks to the Emergency Operations Center in the Community Health Services Building on 19th Street South, which is a university unit,” Witherspoon said. “If another group approaches us about casework or furniture, we always try to help by sharing what we have.”