February 26, 2021

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in a talk about how we responsibly handle construction waste for the Swartz Hall renewal. During this conversation, which was part of an ongoing series of waste system and culture talks organized by HDS student Sakiko Isomichi, I was joined by colleagues from the renewal project contractor Shawmut Design and Construction and the Harvard Green Building Services group. I found the talk insightful and was thrilled that our recycling rate for the project was 87 percent—well above our target goal—so I wanted to share some of what was discussed in this space.

How waste is managed has been an important topic at Harvard Divinity School for quite some time. This is for several reasons, including that HDS Dean David N. Hempton recognizes the importance of environmental sustainability, but also because the faculty, staff, and student community at the School is very engaged in this issue. The HDS Green Team works to educate and promote change within the community for a more sustainable future. HDS was the first School at Harvard to have composting in every building and to initiate a green cleaning program to improve indoor air quality. The HDS Garden Group grows and donates organic fresh produce to a local food bank in Cambridge. What’s more, since 2010, HDS’s Commencement has been zero-waste, meaning all materials are either recyclable or compostable.

So it was natural that as we began conceptualizing the Swartz Hall renewal we established responsible waste management as a high level goal for the project. When we set out, our target for diverting construction and demolition waste from landfills was a 75 percent rate. Currently, our rate is about 87 percent. This figure does not include the items that we were able to salvage and reuse during the demolition process, including historic millwork and leaded glass windows.

Recycled materials at Swartz Hall in front of dumpster.

Our success in this area has been for several reasons. First, we made a commitment that we wanted to be able to continue to use things that could be reused, but those that could not be reused, we wanted to be able to treat them the right way within the waste stream. For example, as our community prepared to temporarily move out of Swartz Hall just before the project began, faculty members and Andover-Harvard Theological Library donated more than 18,000 books to an organization that helps divert books from landfills.

Another reason for surpassing our target recycling rate was that the requirements for responsible waste management were incorporated early on in the design stage of the project and it wasn’t an afterthought that surprised the contractor. This allowed for careful planning, and our location also provided a benefit in that we were able to have several dumpsters on site to allow for proper separation of material streams before being sent to recycling facilities. Also, our waste management partners provide monthly check-in reports that help our team ensure waste management goals are incorporated throughout construction.

Dumpsters lined up in front of Swartz Hall.

I’m proud of the success we’ve had regarding waste management on this project and how our partners and team have helped us toward our goal of bringing about a more environmentally sustainable future.

Site work. Crews continue to make significant progress on interior work. As you can see below, the interior of the multipurpose space is coming together as mechanical and electrical work continues.

Swartz Hall multipurpose room windows from interior in February 2021.

Swartz Hall multipurpose room interior in February 2021.

Crew member working on interior of Swartz Hall in February 2021.

Exterior of Swartz Hall addition in February 2021.

Also, irrigation work on the east and west lawns is ongoing. Interior finishes are continuing, including painting, door and hardware installation, wall framing, and tiling. Window installation in the Braun Room is ongoing. Rough carpentry and masonry continues in the stack wing with a focus on framing walls and ceilings. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work also continues throughout the building, including the stack wing. Installation of a second elevator in the multipurpose addition continues along with masonry around the interior fireplace. Carpentry, concrete, masonry, and finishing work continues in the library, including installation of flooring, compact shelving, and work in the fire pump room. All activities are subject to change based on weather or other circumstances.

—Ralph