Deconstruction & Reuse News and Info
 - from the Building Materials Reuse Association - 
BMRA - "working to make decon and reuse the norm again".

Deconstructing Blight...
- part 2 of a 2 part series -

My last post in December, summarized the work being done by Project RE_, a collaboration between the Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS) in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, Construction Junction, a nonprofit building material reuse retailer in Pittsburgh and a local job training organization called Landforce.  Soon the UDBS meets with a nonprofit neighborhood development corporation to present the house design that Professor John Folan and his students are developing with the added challenge of incorporating some of the material from the solar house deconstruction.  The house design also includes an innovative reuse feature utilizing ultra-high performance concrete panels that are “cast offs” from a local manufacturing facility. The UDBS is also exploring design for deconstruction. 

I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Folan to get his perspective on the response of the students to this challenging project. His first comments were enthusiastically centered on the increasing number of students seeking admittance to the UDBS program. The students are attracted to the community and environmental goals of the studio. We turned to the challenges of the current project which is addressing a number of complex issues. One of the challenges, of particular interest to me as part of the building material reuse industry is incorporating used materials into the house design-which will be a new construction project. What I took away from our discussion was essentially in architecture school students are not usually presented with a specific type of material to build a design around. You design and then find the materials that work for your design-usually material of which you have familiarity with a broad range of options. Starting with the limitation of using material at hand, particularly salvaged material, is not “business as usual” in architecture schools. Bottom line is simply; this work is hard.

Professor Folan is deeply committed to the vision of Project RE_. The students who are drawn to the UDBS see the importance of reuse and are committed to the idea, the challenge is always putting ideas into practice. The critical point here is someone needs to be practicing!

This project is ongoing. Project RE_ will be presenting its work and lessons learned at the BMRA conference in October. We hope you will join us and in the meantime keeping practicing reuse.

Mike Gable
Executive Director, Construction Junction
Co-Founder of Project RE_
President of the Board of BMRA   

Decon & Reuse 19

Please join us in Pittsburgh October 28-30th


Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

"One of the Greenest Buildings in the World"

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens generates all of its own energy and treats all storm and sanitary water captured on-site. It is the first and only building to meet four of the highest green certifications:

•    Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous green building standard
•    LEED® Platinum — tied for the highest points awarded under version 2.2
•    First and only Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES™) for landscapes project (pilot)
•    First WELL Building Platinum project (pilot)

As Phipps’ education, research and administration facility, the CSL is an integral part of the Phipps visitor experience as a "living museum," focusing attention on the important intersection between the built and natural environments, and demonstrating that human and environmental health are inextricably connected. 

The BMRA is excited to announce our conference location at this amazing example of what our built environment should strive to be. We've been in some fun spots over the years buy we think this one will top them all. Not only will we be in one of the most exciting architectural buildings in the world but we will be in one of the best botanical gardens as well. 
We are still working on a hotel block but there are a few just outside the gardens and plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance, so we'll get something set up soon. So mark your calendars and make sure to register as soon as we open it up. 

 Early bird Registration will be out soon! 
Will process improvement methods from manufacturing work with reuse? by Brion Hurley

Most major corporations, especially those in manufacturing, have some type of improvement program they follow to save money, reduce inventory and increase customer satisfaction. These programs fall under the popular terms such as Lean, Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, or Operational Excellence. These approaches have been around for decades with a strong track record of success. 

When these programs are supported by top leadership in the organization, and implemented with a focus on the long term, they can also engage employees, mitigate risks, improve safety and improve sustainability.

Over the past two decades, these approaches have also expanded outside of manufacturing, into government agencies, banking, IT, education, law firms, healthcare and even nonprofits. As these techniques find their way into new industries, there is always an initial push back, such as "we don't make widgets" or "we don't want to work in a factory" or "this won't work in our organization." The resistance has some merits, but not fully based in reality.

Yes, each industry must look at these techniques in a different way, and some tools and approaches work better than others. Adjustments must be made based on the market, processes, worker skills, laws, and customer needs of that industry. But most of these tools, techniques and mindsets can be applied in some way to that industry with only slight adjustments.

The same is true for the building reuse industry. 
Over the past 2 years, I've had the opportunity to learn about these nuances through my volunteer work with Lean Portland. We offer pro-bono process improvement consulting to nonprofits in Portland, Oregon. Two of our current clients are in the reuse industry, and they have been educating us on all the uniqueness and challenges they face.

The first major challenge we encountered was dealing with the limitations of the supply chain. In most organizations we've worked with, the materials you need are purchased from a supplier. When you do not control the amount, frequency or quality of the materials, you must design processes that are flexible and responsive, which takes time to develop and perfect.

But aside from the supply chain, most of the concepts have been directly applicable to the work being done in reuse operations.

In a car manufacturer like Toyota, the goal is to take raw materials and purchased parts from suppliers to manufacture a vehicle as quickly as possible without an error. In healthcare, patients want to arrive at their appointment, be seen quickly by a qualified professional, get the correct diagnosis and treatment, and get back to their lives with the least amount of cost, pain and disruption. 

In the reuse industry, the goal is to remove valuable lumber and materials from a building and get it back into a new building as quickly as possible. When accepting donations, the goal is to get a desired donation from the donor, receive the donation, evaluated, processed, priced, on display in the store (or online), and sold and into the hands of the customer as quickly as possible.

Time is the measure of success. In order to be fast, you must also have high quality, otherwise the process gets caught in a rework loop, and it takes much longer and costs more money to complete. 
But many organizations don't evaluate or measure time from the customer's perspective. They look at their individual processes (such as checkout, or unloading a truck, or de-nailing wood), and incorrectly think that fast individual process steps will lead to a fast overall process for the customer. This is usually false.

The big delays in most processes occur during the hand offs BETWEEN the processes, not DURING the process.

If we observe and time the process to get one piece of lumber out of a building, process it, and get it into a store, it might take less than an hour of actual labor to complete this task.

But if we measure the calendar time for that same piece of wood, it might be removed in July, processed in August, and into the store in September. An hour of labor that takes three months to become available to a customer is the proper way to look at the opportunities in this process. 

At Toyota, it takes about 18 hours of labor to make a car in their factory, but the car is completed within 30 days of when the work begins. This is a much better percentage. Besides the speed advantage, it also reduces their cash flow, as they are able to get paid by their customer shortly after paying their suppliers for the materials. 

Through practice, you will also be able to see the opportunities for improvement from the customer's perspective. This will focus your organization towards concepts such as quick changeover, small batch work, visual management, daily huddles, data analysis, error proofing and checklists.

On March 26th at 1:00pm EST, join myself and Matt Horvat will go much deeper into this topic with a webinar on Lean principles applied to the reuse industry. Join us here! add to your calendar here 

Brion Hurley is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Business Performance Improvement in Portland, Oregon. He teaches Lean and Six Sigma classes, facilitates workshops and events, performs statistical analysis, and mentors employees through improvement efforts. He is the author of “Lean Six Sigma for Good: How improvement experts can help people in need, and help improve the environment.”
Vonigo Webinar 

Don't forget to sign up for the Vonigo webinar hosted by the BMRA for our members!
From increasing daily donation pick-up capacity to saving cost, to increasing donations Vonigo can help your organization operate more efficiently. 

Join us on Wednesday, February 13th.  You can save your spot here.

This is the BMRA's first Webinar in our new series, keep an eye out for more info on our next one with Brion Hurley of LEAN Portland [article above] in March and another planned with the American Society of Appraisers soon! 

Buzz-saw: news in & around our industry...

Microsoft Shows that Big Tech Can Push The Envelope on Decon and Reuse
While it seems that many of the organizations making headway on deconstruction and reuse are smallish, a large company with lots of building facilities can be in a position to move the needle as well. Microsoft has shown commitment to sustainability (and deconstruction too) as part of its rework of 13 buildings at its campus in Redmond, Washington. Learn more in this article by Jennifer Hermes at the Environmental Leader website.

Call for Papers On Cultural Heritage Management (e.g., Historic Preservation) and Sustainable Development
Emerald Publishing of Canada is calling for abstracts connecting conservation of culture with deconstruction and reuse of building materials. Among the suggested topic areas: 

  • Connecting the embedded stories, skills, carbon and energy of materials
  • Modern spolia: narratives of reuse for salvaged materials in new places
Learn more here.

Environmental Design Research Association Announces "Great Places Awards" Nominations Open
Are you involved with a project with great design, which "reflect an interdisciplinary approach that is enduring, human-centered, sustainable, and concerned with the experiential relationship between people and their environment (built and natural) over time?" Perhaps you should consider pursuing one of the "Great Places Awards." Applications are due February 11, so hurry!
(Thanks to SEED Network for pointing this opportunity out.)

Research and Reports

In this new section we will be posting reports, research papers, both new and old that we think are relevant to our industry. Posts will then be added to our Library as well. 

Here is a request for help with researching new tools for decon: 
My name is Keri Masserant, I am an undergraduate student studying Applied Engineering Sciences, working with the Building Construction Management team at Michigan State University to do a market research study on potentially creating a tool to help ease the process of reusing structural lumber. We are interested in determining key functions this device should have, what issues there are when reusing salvaged lumber, and potential market demand for such a device. If this is something that interests you, please reach out to me at Thank you!
Please send anything you think might be of interest to

And here is a really cool graphic
about the cycle of materials from our friends at Circular Economy Asia

(By the way, we'd love to include YOUR voice in future issues of this BMRA newsletter.  Let us know if you have ideas for topics, or if you'd like to contribute an article!)

Become a BMRA member!
Please remember, we depend on you to keep us going. Membership is the foundation of our organization; we can’t do what we do without our members financial support. Please renew or join today and help us to keep building a vibrant building materials reuse economy.
BMRA News is published monthly, typically in the first half of the month.  Submission deadline for articles and member notes is the 25th of the month preceding publication.  Submissions and commentary should be addressed to editor Dirk Wassink at
Copyright © 2017 Building Materials Reuse Association, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 28 Great Cranberry Isle Maine 04625

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.
Not currently a subscriber?  Signup here.