Workplace interior

Two Companies Offer Next-Generation Solutions for Circular Workplaces

By bringing new life to discarded materials and managing the reuse of assets like furniture and building materials Tri-Lox and Rheaply are building a circular future.

In 2018, 9.6 million tons of furniture and furnishings ended up in U.S. landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a good portion of that waste likely came from offices. Most workplaces are renovated every few years and the stuff inside, whether it has worn out or simply “uglied,” goes into the trash. Not only is this an environmental calamity, but it is also a wasted opportunity, according to a new class of entrepreneurs who are addressing the full life cycle of the materials and products that make up offices. Their expertise and technological solutions help companies close the loop.


Brooklyn’s Tri-Lox design and fabrication studio is bringing new life to discarded materials like timber, saving them from the landfill and providing them to the designers of some of New York City’s ambitious cultural touchstones. Launched by childhood friends Alexander Bender and Ellis Isenberg, Tri-Lox cut its teeth working with Big Reuse (formerly Build It Green! NYC) and other nonprofits before word of mouth—and an impressive portfolio—led to commissions for Shake Shack, retailer rag & bone, a wildflower-fringed rooftop for Vice’s Williamsburg HQ, and the Howard Gilman Foundation’s wood-paneled office space. “Everything that we do at Tri-Lox is in service of promoting forest health,” says Bender. The company wants to educate designers that the over-sourcing of any single material—for example, the white oak interiors clogging your Instagram feed—creates a ripple effect on the ecosystem. “We realized that foresters and architects have little to no dialogue,” Isenberg says. “We’re operating as an intermediary between the design and the conservation communities, to give each the tools to understand how to best situate in the industry.” —Laura Feinstein

Rheaply proposes a circular economy model (above) that allows companies to avoid material waste and unlock new revenue streams with the help of its Asset Exchange Manager (AxM). For the Howard Gilman Foundation offices (top), Tri-Lox used two generations of oak: a reclaimed heritage oak that predates the Revolutionary War for floor and furniture elements and an oak sourced from local forests for casework and partitions.


Garry Cooper, cofounder, CEO, and president of Chicago-based tech start-up Rheaply, was working toward a PhD in neuroscience at Northwestern University when he discovered silos within university departments—one department might need equipment that another department might be in the process of discarding, yet they had no way of connecting and exchanging that equipment. “It turns out that at the largest organizations, no one really knows where everything is,” he says. “Rheaply is helping organizations understand what they currently own, and whether they’re using it or not using it.” The company’s Asset Exchange Manager (AxM) records all assets owned by each of its clients—from furniture to technology to building materials—to ensure that the organization isn’t sending things to the landfill unnecessarily. “We then connect all our clients to each other and to their local communities. So, if an organization doesn’t want a piece of furniture or a building material anymore, they can donate, sell, or rent those to charities, high schools, other businesses, and their peers through Rheaply.” In the past five years, Rheaply has helped divert over 15 metric tons of waste, and counts the U.S. Air Force, Google, AbbVie, Exelon, and MIT among its clients. —Avinash Rajagopal

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