Here’s how Room & Board is finding new uses for old NYC water towers

MINNEAPOLIS — Top 100 retailer Room & Board’s Urban Wood Project has been expanded to include salvaged wood from decommissioned New York City water towers.

The Urban Wood Project is the Minneapolis-based retailer’s national initiative that sources wood otherwise destined for landfills and reclaims it into unique furnishings. The brand is partnering with Brooklyn-based millwork and design operation Tri-Lox to upcycle wood culled from decommissioned New York City water towers and salvaged local trees for an exclusive line of sustainable offerings suitable for hospitality and office spaces.

In addition to this newest partnership, Room & Board has Urban Wood Project partners in Minneapolis, Detroit, Sacramento, Anaheim and Baltimore. By the end of 2025, Room & Board plans to divert the equivalent of 1,000 trees annually from the waste stream through this project.

This collaboration builds on Room & Board’s diversion of 200 trees annually from the waste stream, delivering on its mission to produce built-to-last furniture through sustainable practices that prioritize American craftsmanship. This launch will mark more than 20 pieces from the Urban Wood Project, which has collectively rescued 180,000 board feet of lumber from landfills, much of which is old growth lumber that is no longer available anywhere.

Wooden water towers have been landmarks on the NYC skyline for more than a century, and the structures continue to be an integral part of the clean water supply for the city. There are an estimated 17,000 wooden water tanks in NYC that each hold 10,000 gallons of drinking and bathing water for the city’s residents. These wooden tanks are far more efficient, less expensive and easier to maintain than their steel counterparts, but due to the untreated wood, the structures only last 30 to 35 years before needing replacement. Tri-Lox is preserving these materials through a process of milling, culling and stabilizing the raw material that ultimately creates a circular wood system and utilizes the most climate-positive practices.

The first products in the collection are the Milbridge tabletop frames and Stanley wall shelf.

“The Urban Wood model has allowed us to mitigate unnecessary waste and reduce the distance materials travel,” said Emily McGarvey, director of sustainability for Room & Board. “We’ve proven that American-made is not just a smart business choice; it is also smarter environmentally.”

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