Letter: Getting the fate of the Green House wrong

Reducing construction waste, and, in this case, discarded parts from temporary exhibitions is both a goal and reality of the aftermath of each show at the School of Architecture Gallery.

Unfortunately, Thomas Chase, in preparation for his guest column (“Throwing away the Green House and sustainability,” Oct. 27) did not take the time to contact me, my colleagues or other students at the School of Architecture to check his facts. While parts of the National Building Museum’s “Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture” did make their way into a dumpster behind Paul Rudolph Hall, his story is inaccurate, ill-informed and unfair on several fronts.

This exhibition is unique in that most of its display support structure was made of recycled, reclaimed or rapidly renewable materials, such as wheat board, sunflower seed board and laminated bamboo and was not discarded in its entirety as Chase’s punch-line expounds. What he saw in a dumpster were parts of the exhibition structure that will not be used at its next and final venue after a successful two year traveling schedule. In addition, his claim that an extra dumpster was ordered for this disposal is erroneous.

What was inevitably discarded into a regular bin were parts of bamboo stands and wood crates which could not be re-used by Yale students and faculty who had been offered these pieces before the show closed. While we always recycle discarded steel, to the best of my knowledge, there is no wood recycling facility in our area, so reuse or hauling to a landfill are unfortunately our only options.

A significant portion of the materials, however, will be reused. One graduate student will be making a desk out of the laminated bamboo; others have retrieved material for future projects and the Gallery is still holding on to usable bamboo. Although the wheat board and sunflower seed boards are notoriously difficult to work with, they are designed to be reclaimed into nature’s potpourri of biodegradability.

Finally, as a result of our show, much of the exhibit will remain for years to come. The New Haven Housing Authority will display the four large actual wall assemblies and solar panel sample from the Green House exhibit indefinitely in its Audubon Street office.

Dean Sakamoto

Oct. 29

The writer is Director of Exhibitions at and a 1998 graduate of the School of Architecture.


  • Thomas Chase

    I appreciate Professor Sakamoto’s response to my column on the fate of the Green House exhibit.

    It was my mistake that a new dumpster was ordered for the exhibit’s materials. As a student employee, I often remove waste to the school’s dumpster, and saw a new, additional dumpster for the first time when it was holding the exhibit’s materials. I was unaware that the dumpster had been ordered for routine trash.

    Aside from this minor detail, a great deal of material from the exhibit was sent to a landfill, after only a two year life span. As two years is far less time than it took nature to produce those materials, this is an unsustainable approach to display practices. Additionally, the biodegradable materials used in the exhibit will never have the chance to biodegrade if sent to a landfill – landfill’s are inhospitable to the environmental processes of biodegradation. If the materials are able to biodegrade, they will turn into methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which may or may not be burned as carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Incineration, the end-of-life for much waste in CT, would rapidly turn those materials into carbon dioxide.

    Wood recycling facilities do, in fact, exist in the New Haven area, and one of the best is 10 minutes away from Yale.

    I recognize the attempts made by the school and the gallery to promote sustainable building, but also the long ways waste management in building practices and in the way the school is operated have to go. I look forward to working towards a better, more environmentally responsible approach to waste management at Yale and beyond.

  • Thomas Chase

    *typo* – “…burned and released as carbon dioxide…”