Urban Machine and All Bay Mill & Lumber Company bring sustainability to California’s Bay Area by reclaiming tons of wood waste through an efficient and effective deconstruction cycle.

Every good business has a partner it can count on, a Dr. Watson for Sherlock Holmes. Businesses involved in sustainability rely on that kind of symbiosis. Urban Machine is a robotics company on a mission to reclaim the millions of tons of wood waste from construction and demolition for reuse as premium lumber. Founded in 2021 by Eric Law, Andrew Gillies, and Alex Thiele, Urban Machine, based in Oakland, CA, is innovating sustainable practices for construction through the use of artificial intelligence and robotic technology.

Just a short drive north of Oakland in American Canyon, All Bay Mill & Lumber Company is a full-service lumberyard with re-manufacturing facilities and a vast inventory of structural framing lumber. All Bay has been a key resource for the construction industry in Northern California for more than 35 years.

A truckload of freshly milled wood reclaimed by Urban Machine is leaving All Bay Lumber on its way to a customer who is a furniture maker. Photos courtesy of Urban Machine.

Bringing Sustainability to the Bay Area
When Eric realized the amount of wood waste that goes into landfills in the U.S. per year—37 million tons—he knew he had to do something to help the planet, and got to work on creating his company Urban Machine. After the team was established, he needed a partner who understood his mission and could make the reclaimed wood as beautiful as it was the first time it was used.

Urban Machine and All Bay are now working together to bring sustainability to the Bay Area. All Bay’s President, Frank Addiego, was really excited when Eric reached out via LinkedIn to invite Frank to see Urban Machine’s facility. Frank arrived knowing

that “reclaimed wood is a tough nut”, but this sustainability effort was intriguing.
“When I saw the machine with my own eyes, I realized that Eric had truly automated the dreadful process of nail removal, and I was really intrigued,” Frank explained about his initial reaction to The Machine. “I must have watched the robot adjust itself four times. It would fail, but then learn from its mistakes and continue with its mission until the removal was successful. So impressive.”

Urban Machine’s robot is designed to be modular. While each station has a unique job, the modules work together to reclaim the wood into premium lumber.


Reclaiming the Lumber
Using AI to pinpoint metals, The Machine removes bulk fasteners and surface materials from reclaimed wood. Fasteners are pulled out of the wood using a powerful mechanism similar to that of a bird’s beak, hence its nickname “Big Bird”. Surface materials are removed using rotating wire brushes—like a carwash for wood. Finally, The Machine performs a quality check to ensure the wood is ready for new construction.

When asked about the quality of the reclaimed lumber Urban Machine has stored at All Bay, Frank admitted, “The materials Eric has brought in here are beautiful. Those 4x16s are so dry and bright and gorgeous.”

All Bay has been a family-owned lumber yard since 1984, and they can handle bigger projects like milling the wood reclaimed by Urban Machine. The facility is FSC certified, an assurance that products are from responsibly managed forests with environmental, social, and economic benefits. They are able to work on schools, hospitals, and multi-family properties.

Frank realized the potential for the reclaimed lumber market as this material fetches a price premium over virgin lumber. Most suppliers are booked out months to get FSC certified material, but by partnering with Urban Machine, the lumber is always local, not having to be transported from Oregon or Washington. People looking to use reclaimed wood and earn credits can get exactly what they want from Urban Machine with the help of All Bay.

A Second Life
According to Frank, partnering with Urban Machine is easy. The hurdles that naysayers have declared as obstacles to using reclaimed wood—labor intensive, time consuming, physically dangerous—Urban Machine has conquered and revamped the deconstruction cycle.

“We need to think about the full lifecycle of products without having landfills as a solution in the equation.” explains Eric. “By keeping things circular, Urban Machine, with the finishing help of All Bay, allows lumber to be reclaimed and reused—giving it a second life.”

Frank boasts, “I can see Eric has already run 25 miles of the marathon. His next iterations of The Machine, when he incorporates structural grading, will take this business across its first finish line. Then it will be off to the next sustainability challenge for the team at Urban Machine.” | WA

For more information on Urban Machine, visit www.urbanmachine.build/contact.
For more information on All Bay, e-mail [email protected].