Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in America—an Ivy League university and one of the original nine colonial colleges.
Penn was one of the first schools to embrace the European model of multidisciplinary studies and created the first graduate schools of medicine and business.
As one of the top research Universities in the world, Penn has 28 Nobel Laureates associated with it and is responsible for major breakthroughs, discoveries, and innovations in several fields of science and the humanities.
Penn is also a leader when it comes to sustainability. Indeed, Penn’s leadership in this area is one of the main reasons why DCI partnered with the University to furnish their climate conscious residence hall, New College House.
PROCESS & APPROACH
In 2014, DCI was invited by the team at BCJ to compete for the NCH project. In total, four companies vied for the opportunity to furnish NCH. Each company set up a sample room where students and faculty rotated through and evaluated what they liked.
After competing with 3 other furniture manufacturing companies, DCI won the bid. Penn loved DCI’s sample room and selected our furniture based on our samples. From that point forward, Penn has looked to DCI as a partner for sustainable residence hall furniture.
Why did we win the bid? There were a number of things that went in our favor but two things stood out.
First, as NCH’s Senior Project Manager Dave Dunn mentioned, environmentally sustainable furniture was a priority for Penn.
Furthermore, all of our furniture is made with FSC-controlled solid hardwood harvested locally in New England. In the case of Penn, all of the furniture was made with locally source solid oak.
Second, a previous sustainability partnership with Dartmouth—where we sourced wood for their furniture from the University’s own land—impressed the team at Penn.
During that project, we collaborated with the Residence Life Director at Dartmouth College. Now he was working at Penn and endorsed DCI for the contract.
Locally Sourced Lumber
The New College project required almost 100,000 board feet of Red Oak lumber. That translates to approximately 16 truckloads of logs or 8 truckloads of lumber. All of that wood was sourced locally.
The lumber was harvested with the oversight of New Hampshire state forresters near our factory in New Hampshire from the Russel Abbott State Forest and the NERR Wildlife Reserve in Durham. The Wildlife Society recognizes NH state forests for their work in creating a diverse habitat for wildlife.
Healthy forest methods included culling out less desirable grades of trees for firewood (this includes diseased trees, excessive bending, trees with too many defects or knots), and leaving the best large straight trees for seed trees. We also only ran the job on frozen ground to minimize erosion and runoff.
Healthy wildlife methods included leaving large piles of brush and scrap to protect the threatened Cottontail Rabbit in Durham, and several small “patch cuts” in Russell Abbott. There, several one-acre clear cuts encouraged rapid new growth and allowed the deer and moose populations to thrive on the new saplings.
Several other species of birds and mammals benefited from the cut. In general, small “patch cuts” promote a healthy forest because it opens up the canopy and forces the trees to want to stand up tall and straight.
In addition, the new growth promotes great CO2 conversion. In contrast, an older forest uses almost as much carbon dioxide as the oxygen it produces. New growth uses incredible amounts of CO2 and leaves a very positive “green” footprint.
Zero Waste Furniture
All the furniture we built for Penn created zero waste. You can’t get a lighter environmental footprint than that. For over 40 years, we’ve refined our green manufacturing process, and now it’s completely waste-free.
All wood waste byproducts from our manufacturing process are used to make steam and/or electricity for our factory. That means we collect all the sawdust and burn it in our wood boiler.
When our boiler is in use, the factory doesn’t consume any gas or oil (even during cold New Hampshire winters).
By using a wood boiler to run our kilns and heat our factory and offices, we are saving an average of 68 gallons of oil an hour. That’s 200,000 gallons of heating oil that we we’re offsetting every year by burning our own wood waste.
Do you know how many pounds of CO2 that is? We’re keeping nearly 4.5 million pounds of CO2* out of the atmosphere annually.
The truth is, you can’t do anything like that with other furniture raw materials. Most of them are just too saturated with chemical treatments, glues, and resins. Burning them creates toxic fumes.
In contrast, using sustainable wood for our furniture allows us to maximize the resource at every stage. From cradle to grave, nothing goes to waste.
For these reasons, Penn’s climate sensitive New College House project and DCI’s singular commitment to creating the highest quality green furniture yielded a successful partnership.
Project Location: Philadelphia, PA
Project Size: 354 sets
Building Type: Multi-use Residence Hall
Project Team: Penn, BCJ, DCI
Product List: Adjustable height bed, Stackable 2-drawer under-bed storage, Two-door wardrobe,
Desk with data port, Built-in horizontal and vertical shelving, and Dining tables.
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