Preserving the past, building the future: The role of salvaged materials in modern construction

Approximately 25 percent of construction and demolition waste is reusable yet most construction waste goes to the landfill. Lifecycle Building Center has been operating for over 10 years in the Atlanta market as a nonprofit with a mission rooted in construction material reuse. This practice is one of the most effective strategies for reducing Scope 3 emissions in the industry and plays a key part in the success of the first Living Building of its scale in the Southeastern United States: The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design at Georgia Tech.

The Living Building Challenge mandates that projects incorporate at least one salvaged material for every 5,380 square feet of gross building area to underscore the importance of incorporating reclaimed materials into construction projects. However, with The Kendeda Building, Skanska’s construction team and its partners took the mandate and exceeded the standard.

Upcycling discarded materials into sustainable design elements

The team reused 28 materials from other Georgia Tech campus buildings, a nearby church and even movie and television sets throughout metro Atlanta to be repurposed for functional use at the Kendeda Building.

Some of the materials used include:

  • Nail-laminated decks: The roof and floor decks of The Kendeda Building feature nail-laminated panels made from a combination of 2x6s and 2x4s. While the 2x6s were new, 25 percent of the 2x4s are salvaged from movie and TV sets, including the movie "Rampage" starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, and the television show "24" starring Kiefer Sutherland.
  • Slate tile: The slate tiles used in the building's bathrooms and shower rooms were salvaged from the roof of the Alumni Association building at Georgia Tech. Despite being more than 70 years old, many of the tiles were still in excellent condition, making them ideal for reuse.
  • Granite curbs: Stone Mountain granite curbs from the demolished Georgia Archives Building was repurposed as the planter curb around the front entrance at The Kendeda Building.
  • Joists: The original heart pine joists from Tech Tower at Georgia Tech, dating back to 1887, were used as stair treads and to construct the team table in office spaces in Kendeda, preserving a piece of history while reducing the need for new materials.
  • Storm-felled oak: Georgia Tech's storm-fallen tree recovery plan provided The Kendeda Building with a variety of oak wood, including white oak, black oak and water oak. After air-drying for a year, this wood was kiln-dried and used for live-edge slab countertops and benches.
  • Lunch tables: Salvaged lunch tables from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: Pediatric Healthcare were used as lunch tables for our onsite project teams.
  • Corrugated metal: We reused a corrugated metal deck that was being discarded from a television studio as part of the assembly for the vestibule and elevator shaft roofs.
  • Wood planks and joists: Wood plank from a nearby church was used in multiple locations as a feature wood wall. Additionally, the ADA ramp on Level 1 and the ramp the roof top garden were made from joist material from the church.
  • Lab casework: Laboratory casework from the Cherry Emerson Building renovation on campus was used as the water testing lab in the basement.
  • HDPE pipes: The electrician reused scrap HDPE pipe material to hold up electrical conduit for the duct bank pour.


The team also identified a waste stream while constructing the project. There were about 10,000 pieces of leftover ~18” 2x6 scrap wood after making our nail-laminated timber (NLT) panels. We worked with LAS and subcontractor Raydeo to create butcher block stairs from this material. 

Partnering to impact communities

The reused materials are a testament to the project team's commitment to maximizing the use of salvaged materials and reducing waste. But these efforts take partnership. Through careful coordination and thoughtful tactics with Lifecycle Building Center in Atlanta, a community-based organization, the team successfully facilitated the use of salvaged materials on the project.


The use of salvaged materials in construction is not only environmentally responsible but also economically advantageous. By reusing materials in construction, we can divert millions of pounds of building materials from landfills and save communities millions of dollars in the process.

But most importantly, by incorporating salvaged materials into construction projects, builders can help create a more sustainable future for generations to come.