Decoding Design

Salvaging Boston's Big Dig scraps

Posting in Cities

A house in Lexington, Massachusetts answers the question of what to do with construction debris.

Have you ever wondered or worried about what happens to all the material left from large construction projects? Instead of heading to a landfill, over 600,000 pounds of construction materials from Boston's Big Dig moved 12 miles outside of the city to make up the structural system for a private house.

The 4,300 square foot home was envisioned, designed and built by Paul Pedini, a contractor on the Big Dig project, with John Hong and Jinhee Park from Single Speed Design. The team chose to reuse the concrete panels and steel beams and girders that had provided temporary support and ramps for the city's infrastructure project. Reusing the steel and concrete pieces allowed the architects to reassemble them as if they were part of a pre-fab system. Because of the existing system, the recycled steel frame was completed in just four days.

Since the major elements of the structure were free, the final construction cost of the home, excluding the transportation of the materials, was $150 per square foot. The recycled components are exposed on the interior while the exterior is clad in the traditional New England material of cedar. The overall effect is streamlined and elegant and far from rubbish.

Commenting on what their project can mean for infrastructure recycling, Single Speed Design state that 'with strategic front-end planning, much needed community programs including schools, libraries, and housing could be constructed whenever infrastructure is deconstructed, saving valuable resources, embodied energy, and taxpayer dollars.'

Watch an animation of the construction process below:

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Images: Single Speed Design

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure