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Resource Conservation

Reusing an Old Building

Instead of demolishing the 1957 Southern California Gas Company office complex in Downey, California, the former structure was dismantled piece by piece, with approximately 60% of the old building materials remaining in place or removed for storage and future reinstallation. Reused materials from the former building include:

Ceiling Tiles

Between 5 and 10% of the ceiling tiles found in open office areas of the former Southern California Gas Company building were cleaned, trimmed down, and reinstalled in two ERC seminar rooms for acoustic treatment.

Electrical Conduit and Fittings

Approximately one ton of electrical conduit and fittings salvaged from the former building was reused throughout the ERC.

Uninterruptible Power System (UPS)

The UPS electrical system from the former building was reused, alleviating a $20,000 expenditure for a new system. The building's automatic transfer switch was also reused, for a savings of $5,000. While these systems may require overhauls, their reuse is preferable to what many view as "the easy fix" -- simply purchasing new equipment for every building remodel.

Recycling Construction and Demolition Waste

Steps were taken to reduce the amount of waste destined for local landfills by recycling hundreds of tons of demolition material. Items separated for recycling include concrete (232 tons sent to crushers and recyclers), roofing materials (23 tons), asphalt (820 tons), drywall (27 tons) and metal (57 tons).

Using Recycled Building and Design Materials

Reinforcing Bars (Rebar). Giving new meaning to the term "gunmetal," weapons confiscated by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department were melted, and a portion of the steel was used to manufacture rebar for use primarily in the ERC's structural concrete.

Lightweight Steel Framing

The ERC's steel frame contains between 25 and 66% post-consumer recycled metal. Steel framing decreases construction time, provides increased strength and conserves trees.

Concrete Expansion Joint Fillers (Homex 300)

A premolded wood fiber strip used in concrete and masonry joints compensates for contraction and expansion caused by temperature change. Homex 300 is made from 100% post-consumer recycled newsprint and contains no formaldehyde or asbestos.

Warner Bros. Studio Set Pieces.

A steel stairway and cable tray assemblies recovered from a Warner Bros. film set were installed in the ERC.

Wood Flooring

The entire floor of the ERC's lobby is laid with reprocessed wood. Douglas fir beams and posts from a former Banana Republic warehouse in San Francisco (built in the 1880s and condemned after the Loma Prieta earthquake) were processed at the Oregon Lumber Company for reuse at the ERC. The flooring was installed with environmentally sensitive adhesives.

Carpet tiles are made with face fibers containing 35% recycled, post-individual nylon.

Recycled Carpet Tile: The Evergreen Lease

Southern California Gas Company has entered into an unprecedented partnership agreement with Interface, a major carpet tile manufacturer. Interface manufactures one-third of the commercial carpet tile in the world. Under the lease agreement, Interface will be responsible for the perpetual life of the ERC carpet, including maintenance and replacement, in an ongoing demonstration of "complete loop recycling." When the new carpet becomes stained and worn, it will be shipped to a recycling center to be made into new carpeting or used as an energy source, a preferable alternative to landfilling, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carpet backing can also be reused as a filler for more backing.

The Interface carpet tiles installed in the ERC are made with face fibers containing 35% recycled, post-industrial nylon manufactured by BASF. The filler used on the back of the carpet tiles contains 2.5% post-industrial waste.

Stoneware Flooring

Stoneware flooring tiles contain about 70% post-consumer waste glass, a portion of which is mined from landfills. The manufacturing process blends glass with traditional ceramic materials to make a durable stoneware tile product.

Bathroom Partitions (Poly-Mar HD)

Solid plastic partitions are made from recycled polymer resins by a high-pressure and thermal conduction process. Depending on the partition color (lighter colors contain fewer recycled plastics than darker colors), a partition will contain between 50 and 90% post-consumer materials. Partitions are guaranteed for 15 years, while standard metal partitions can rust within five years in a high-moisture climate. The manufacturer can also use old partitions as feedstock for future recycled partitions.

Sisal Wall Covering

Walls in the main hall are covered with sisal, a durable fabric made from recycled tropical plants and typically used as carpeting.

Mineral Fiber Acoustical Ceiling Tiles

Mineral fiber ceiling tiles, an alternative to standard acoustical tiles, are installed in the ERC's catering kitchen. These tiles contain approximately 22% post-consumer waste, with one product containing up to 85% post-industrial recycled material.

Avonite Composite Board Signage

Much of the signage throughout the ERC is constructed of Avonite composite board. Using 10 to 50% post-industrial recycled material, this synthetic polymer composite material duplicates granite, marble and gemstone colors. Unlike those surfaces, however, Avonite composite board resists acids and stains.

Gridcore Exhibit Panels

Hanging in front of the sisal walls in the main hall are panels made of Gridcore, a turn-of-the-century product made of recycled paper products. The Gridcore wall panels are sound-insulating and provide a thick, receptive surface for tacks and other adhesive materials used for display purposes.

Exhibit Panels

The exhibits displayed in each of the ERC's specialized rooms are mounted on Gridcore and Medite, materials made of recycled Federal Reserve notes and other paper products.

Aircraft Aluminum Accent Wall

A wall veneer made entirely of surplus aircraft aluminum, previously intended for the manufacturing of military aircraft, makes a strong statement in the ERC's lobby.

Recycled Tempered Glass Countertop

The reception desk in the ERC lobby features a 20-foot-long countertop made entirely of recycled tempered glass typically used for commercial building windows. Broken tempered glass was reheated and re-fused, then rendered into highly decorative, opaque, pale blue-green glass panels with a curved shape that mirrors Southern California Gas Company's logo flame.

Syndecrete Finishes

Syndecrete is a surfacing material developed as an alternative to limited or nonrenewable natural materials such as stone and synthetic petroleum-based materials. Syndecrete contains fly ash, an inert waste product of many industrial processes, including power plant electricity generation. Syndecrete also contains a percentage of post-consumer recycled materials such as plastic, wood and metal. Syndecrete applications at the ERC include pay phone countertops and an exterior walkway logo.

Surplus Natural Gas Distribution Pipe

Surplus scraps of yellow plastic pipe used by Southern California Gas Company to transport natural gas were chopped up and added to the concrete mix in the ERC's entry walkway to provide a unique design and color.

Office Partition Panels

Fabric covering the ERC's second-floor office partition panels consists of 45% fiber made from recycled 2-liter plastic soda bottles.

Office Furniture

Used furniture from another Southern California Gas Company facility that was being closed is used throughout the office space at the ERC. As part of its refurbishing, the furniture was painted with a nontoxic finish and treated with chemicals that prevent the formation of harmful molds and mildew.

Water Conservation Features


The ERC's landscaping plan includes drought-resistant plants. In addition, an automatic drip irrigation system reduces the amount of water needed to maintain the ERC's landscaping.

Ultra-Low Flush Toilets

All 14 toilets in the ERC are "ultra-low flush" (ULF) toilets, which reduce water usage by at least 50% compared to conventional toilets. The Department of Water and Power of Los Angeles provides rebates for the installation of ULF toilets.

The Context

  • In 1984, the World Health Organization estimated that up to 30% of new or renovated buildings may experience "sick building syndrome," which is a condition of buildings with tightly sealed ventilation systems that recirculate stale air, molds, bacteria, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants.
  • Building material choices and system designs significantly impact indoor air quality. Many building materials and furnishings contain formaldehyde and other toxic substances that "off-gas" and pollute indoor air. Carpeting, paints, finishes and furniture are potential contributors.
  • According to one study, indoor air pollution costs an estimated $60 billion each year through reduced productivity and worker illnesses and absences.
  • Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reveal that the air we breathe indoors can be 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Americans spend over 85% of their lifetime indoors.
  • Studies indicate that "green" buildings enhance worker productivity and reduce absenteeism due to illness.

The ERC Approach

ERC building designs, systems and material choices optimize the quality of the indoor environment. Efforts were made to minimize the installation of products containing toxic substances and to maximize the use of fresh air in energy-efficient ventilation systems.

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