Recycled Building Materials

Recycled Carpet
Recyled Vinyl Flooring
Recycled Metals


Recycled Carpet

Sophia Gordon Hall uses Interface Equilibrium carpet tiles. These have a minimum 39% total recycled content with a minimum 19% post-consumer recycled content. At the end of the carpets' life, they can be sent back to the Interface Carpet Reclamation program which separates the nylon face and the vinyl backing. Both components are then recycled.

Carpet has a life expectancy of only about 8 years. 1.8 million tons of carpeting winds up in landfills annually in the U.S. Leading carpet manufacturers have taken steps to reduce the waste their industry generates. In January 2002, numerous manufacturers voluntarily signed the National Carpet Recycling Agreement (NCRA) which encouraged product stewardship and accountability. Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a third-party organization, was established as a reclamation system for used consumer carpet. CARE has developed technologies for reclaiming carpet through reuse and recycling. In general, the higher the recycled content, the more sustainable the carpeting.

Allegheny, Sophia Gordon’s carpet supplier, has developed an environmental plan of action that includes agreements with companies they have identified as sharing environmental concerns and who engage in recycling programs. To date, Allegheny has shipped more than 1000 tons of broadloom and carpet tile to be recycled. When practical, some material is restored and donated to charitable organizations, some is reused in the carpet manufacturing process, and some find new uses in the form of park benches, automobile accessories and curb blocks.

More Resources:

Carpet Take-Back: EPR American Style (Autumn 2000) Bette K. Fishbein, INFORM, Inc.
This article provides a broad overview of the carpet industry and its early efforts to voluntarily take back waste carpeting. The article and its research pre-date the National Agreement on Carpet Recycling, but it gives some insight into the carpet industry and its members' motivations for increasing recovery of carpet waste.

Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures U.S. EPA
This annual report describes the waste stream in the U.S. based on data collected since 1960. The accuracy of the data on carpet discards and recycling has been questioned, but there is no other study that offers a national perspective or data. The figures do provide a useful historical perspective that is useful for establishing trends in types of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated and in the ways that MSW is managed.

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Recycled Vinyl Flooring

The hallways in the suites of Sophia Gordon Hall have Mannington Relay recycled vinyl flooring with 40% pre-consumer (post-industrial) recycled content.

Relay is manufactured in Mannington’s Salem, New Jersey, facility, using pre-consumer carpet trim waste from carpet produced in its Georgia facility.

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Recycled Metals

Steel is an important building material in commercial construction. It offers strength, durability and stability. Yet, as all metals, steel has very high embodied energy.

On the positive side, metals can easily be recycled without compromising their quality (no down-cycling). As steel is recycled, it maintains its strength and integrity so it can be made into one quality product after another. All of the steel used in construction projects have some recycled steel content. The post-consumer recycled content for regular construction steel varies between 25-56%.

For Sophia Gordon Hall, the designers and contractors went out of their way to use the highest possible recycled content. The steel used for Sophia Gordon Hall has over 80% recycled content, most of it from post-consumer sources.

Each year, millions of tons of pre- and post-consumer steel products, including used steel cans, appliances, automobiles and construction materials, are recycled by steel mills. About 70% of all steel is recycled. In the construction industry, over 95% of all beams and plates are recycled.

Recycling has always been an integral part of the steelmaking process. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, an industry association, Steel is North America's Number #1 recycled material. Each year, more steel is recycled than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined!

Embodied energy is drastically reduced in recycled steel: The embodied energy of virgin steel is between 32MJ/kg to 59MJ/kg whereas the recycled steel values range from 8.9MJ/kg to 12.5MJ/kg. In other words, the energy consumed to produce recycled steel is 39-85% lower than making steel from virgin materials. (The difference in embodied energy values between the two main steel processes, Basic Oxygen Steel and Electric Arc Steel (38MJ/kg and 19MJ/kg), can also be attributed to this difference of recycling steel.)

Source: Which is Better? Steel, Concrete or Wood: A Comparison of Assessments On Three Building Materials In the Housing Sector Department of Chemical Engineering University of Sydney Fourth Year Thesis By Joanna Glover

For more information on steel:
The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) is an industry association that promotes and sustains the recycling of all steel products. The SRI educates the solid waste industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the benefits of steel's infinite recycling cycle.


Embodied energy - is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the acquisition of natural resources to product delivery. This includes the mining and manufacturing of materials and equipment, the transport of the materials and the administrative functions. Embodied energy is a significant component of the lifecycle impact of a home.

Down-cycling - Not all products can be made into qualitatively equal products when they are recycled. E.g., plastic bottles cannot be made into new plastic bottles, because recycled plastic is of lower quality. They have to be made into something like park-benches. Down-cycling also reduces the number of times a product can be recycled. This is a particular problem with plastics and to a lesser extent true for paper and glass. Metals can be recycled dozens of times without down-cycling effects.

Post-consumer material - Refers to a material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item. "Post-consumer material" is part of the broader category of "recovered material."

Post-industrial materials - Recovered industrial and manufacturing materials that are diverted from municipal solid waste for the purpose of collection, recycling, and disposition. Post-industrial materials are part of the broader category of "recovered materials."

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