Whenever possible, we chose recycled, natural, renewable, and energy-efficient building materials for our renovation.

Beams & Siding

Interior. Posts for the Thelma Babbitt Room — an octagonal, post-and-beam meeting space — were milled from white pine grown on Harris Center lands. The knee braces were made from bent oak, maple, and birch trees, also harvested from Harris Center-managed property. The huge Douglas fir rafters and compression ring were recycled from a mill building in Massachusetts, built in the early 1900s.

Exterior. Our clapboard siding is made from cement, sand, and wood fibers, and is resistant to rot and insect damage.


Recycled materials. The planks used on all four outdoor decks were made from recycled plastic grocery bags and waste wood. Both second floor decks are surrounded by railings and balustrades made from recycled, century-old cypress salvaged from river bottoms in the southeastern U.S.

Pressure treated wood. All outdoor pressure-treated structural lumber was preserved using EPA-approved ACQ, a water-based formula that is arsenic- and chromium-free.


Kitchen. The kitchen flooring is a resilient material made from recycled automobile tires and reprocessed commercial roofing materials.

Bathroom. Linoleum — made with all natural materials, including linseed oil, wood flour, rosin binders, and dry pigments, mixed and rolled onto a natural jute backing — was used for the bathroom floors.

Wood floors. Much of the original wood flooring was reused by patching existing rooms with flooring removed from the north wing of the old building. All new wood flooring is FSC-certified yellow birch from sustainably managed forests.

Carpet. Office carpeting consists of individual carpet tiles made with 100% recycled backing.


Fluorescent lights. Fluourescent bulbs are used throughout the building, with most ceiling lights using only two, 26-watt, instant-on bulbs.

LEDs. Exit signs are lit by 1-watt LEDs that will last for 25 years before needing to be replaced.

Motion sensors. Many lights operate automatically by motion sensors, ensuring that we’re only using electricity where and when we need it.


Water-based stains. To minimize exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), we used only water-based stains and clear finishes.


ABS piping. Vinyl products, when carelessly disposed of by incineration, can have harmful human health consequences. To reduce the need for vinyl in the renovation of the Harris Center building, ABS piping (made from thermal plastic resins) was used instead of industry-standard PVC.


Windows were chosen with an eye toward reducing heat loss and increasing natural light.

Glass. Triple-glazed windows are used throughout the building to reduce heat loss in the winter and minimize heat gain in the summer. These windows insulate twice as well as double-paned windows and are rated with a U-factor of 0.17. (The lower the U-factor, the greater a window’s resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating properties.) Two coatings of low-E metallic oxide and two sections of argon gas also help to reduce solar heat gain in the summer months.

Window frames. Fiberglass window frames insulate better than vinyl, wood, or aluminum, and they contain up to 85% melted sand, a nearly inexhaustible natural resource.

Skylights. Skylights are used in the office to provide natural light.