Old pickle barrels have found new life in the University of Minnesota’s Duluth Civil Engineering Building designed by Ross Barney Architects. From the project’s onset, sustainable values and eco-friendly elements were incorporated into the design process. All of the building materials showcase local raw and natural resources like reclaimed wood, Corten steel, reclaimed taconite rocks, CMU, and pre-cast and poured-in-place concrete. Locally-available products account for more than 20 percent of the materials used, and more than 30 percent of the building’s materials are recycled.

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The oversized scuppers, made from the pickle barrels, prevent rainwater from overflowing the sewer system and causing harm to the local stream beds. Water is directed from the rooftop through the scuppers into Corten steel cylinders that distribute it into an underground French drain. The water then fills a flume in a laboratory for students to use in experiments or filters back into the groundwater system of the site.

A garden of native plants covers 30 percent of the roof, helping to reduce storm runoff, cool the building, and reduce noise. Rain gardens and non-irrigated landscaping mark the east and west sides of the building, and permeable pavers were used on the sidewalks and parking lot. Through the reuse of greywater and low-flow plumbing fixtures, the building achieved a 56 percent reduction in water usage.

The building has a slew of other sustainable features that helped it achieve a LEED Gold rating: increased ventilation, the use of low-emitting construction materials, advanced lighting control, advanced thermal comfort control, access to daylight and views for occupied spaces, and the use of an under- floor air distribution system.

+ Ross Barney Architects

Photos © Kate Joyce Studios