The Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility is a processing center for New York City’s curbside metal, glass, and plastic recyclables which is being undertaken by Sims Municipal Recycling and the City of New York. The project is located on an 11 acre waterfront pier in Sunset Park adjacent to a former manufacturing and shipping terminal built in the 19th century. The facility’s design was influenced by the neighborhood’s industrial vocabulary, as well as its programmatic use as a recycling center which inspired reuse throughout.
The firm’s masterplan organizes buildings to support functionality, creates distinct circulation systems to safely separate visitors from operations, and remediates the brownfield land with native plantings. Buildings are also organized to create courtyard spaces that establish a context for the site. The 125,500 sf facility includes a Tipping Building, where recyclables arrive by barge; Processing and Bale Storage Buildings; and an Education Center.
The Education Center is one of the project’s most unique features. The 23,000 sf structure contains programs for school children and the public including classrooms, exhibitions, and active demonstration displays. A key element of the design is a steel bridge which connects the Education Center to a viewing platform inside the processing facility. The viewing platform allows students and visitors to see the recycling process in action.
Working within a pre-engineered building, one of the design challenges was to find ways to articulate the program and give an overall expression to the facility that would distinguish it from ordinary big box construction. In response, structural elements are inverted to appear on the exterior, giving steel girders and lateral bracing a greater visual impact.
The facility will make a major environmental contribution by delivering recyclables by barge—a strategy which minimizes the distance collection trucks must travel and eliminates 240,000 miles of annual vehicle travel from roadways. Recycled materials are used throughout: site fill is made from a composite of recycled glass, asphalt, and rock reclaimed from the Second Avenue subway construction; buildings are made from recycled steel; and plazas are finished with recycled glass. Other sustainable measures include the largest application of photovoltaics in New York City, a wind turbine which generates 25% of the facility’s power, and bioswales for stormwater management.