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Initiative’s aim: Turn trash into treasure
Innovation Barn touts recycle economy
Published Thursday, May 2, 2019 11:22 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Envision Charlotte and the city of Charlotte are experimenting with circular economy at Innovation Barn at 932 Seigle Ave.

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Charlotte’s linear economy is a problem.

Envision Charlotte and the city of Charlotte are experimenting with implementing a circular economy at the Innovation Barn, 932 Seigle Ave., which is expected to open in August.

“The 900,000 tons that we send to the landfill can make about $111 million for the city,” said City of Charlotte Community Engagement Specialist Beverlee Sanders. “It would help with economic mobility and economic development. Right now we are a linear economy—we make, use and dispose. A circular economy would turn that into make, use and reuse. The Innovation Barn would be where all that takes place.”

UNC Charlotte seniors demonstrated their architecture project, Sweet Little Brewhouse, turning a discarded building on the site Innovation Barn site into a coffee shop. It serves as an example of what Envision Charlotte and the city hope to accomplish at Innovation Barn.

“What they’ve designed is really what we call tactical urbanism,” said UNC Charlotte professor of architecture and urban design Deborah Ryan, whose students created SLB. “It’s a short-term intervention for long-term change. This is probably a temporary project, but what it’s meant to do is show what the Innovation Barn is going to become. This is the center for the circular economy in Charlotte. Most of what you see is reused materials, or materials that were taken from the waste stream.”

Said UNCC student Khalid Shahim: “We realized that whatever we designed would get uprooted during construction, so we decided to design things that were a little more permanent. It’s things that can be reused. It’s all about the circular economy.”

Recycled elements include bike tires as planters, as well as implementing gabion walls.

“Usually in gabion walls, you fill it with rocks, but we are reusing recycled bottles instead,” Shahim said. “We had all of this PVC [pipe] donated to us from Charlotte. We used it to create PVC gabion walls, to set a stage for watering areas, and places where you can actually clean the bottles before recycling them, because if you don’t, the stagnant beer is really going to make it smell. Some people put lemons in their beer, so that has to go.”

A key feature on SLB is the sign, which reads: “Save the Earth, it’s the only planet with coffee.”

“The building was preexisting, and we created signage using preexisting wood on the site, and we laser-cut it on campus, using the university’s lab,” Shahim said. “We also painted around the site to make it feel bigger than it actually is.”

The Charlotte Re-Cyclery will be located at the Innovation Barn once it opens, restoring bikes and continuing their earn-a-bike and ride programs through Trips For Kids Charlotte. Earn-a-Bike teaches children age 9-15 bike safety, maintenance and how to repair a bike. The free program focuses on children in at-risk environments. Children must know how to ride a bike without training wheels in order to enroll in the program. Once a child completes the program, he or she receives a bike, which includes front and rear safety lights, a helmet and a lock. The ride program focuses on mountain biking for those between ages 10-15. Most of the students attend Title I schools.

Based on future cycling, the UNCC students designed circles and a path for cyclists to practice on.

“With this white path going around, children can use it to learn how to use their bike,” Shahim said. “It’s little key instillations, trying to bring the whole area together. Hopefully something that can be more permanent, even when they uproot all this concrete.”

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