Decon and Reuse News and Info  

 from the BMRA 
"working to create a vibrant building materials economy as part of a world without waste".

Planned obsolescence [was planned...]
by Joe Connell [inspired by a presentation from J. Michael Huls, Professor, Santa Monica College at the recent Upcyclers Gathering in LA]

As I have said on many occasions deconstruction and the reuse of building materials is nothing new; we have been deconstructing buildings since folks first put one stone on top of another to build a shelter. What's new is the systematic shift away from the common sense reuse of these materials. I say systematic very intentionally here. I use to assume we shifted away from this common sense approach over time in a rather haphazard way. Drifting away slowly by one change leading to another change like sand moving slowly down the coast. And I had assumed that the term "planned obsolescence" was a phrase we tacked on to this shift more recently. But lately I have begun to realize that the shift was much more intentional.
When I heard John speak last month in LA I finally realized just how intentional the beginnings of our economy of waste were. John points out that "the origins of planned obsolescence go back as far as 1932 with Bernard London's treatise Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence, which had a marked impact on government thinking about policy development." The thinking evidently was that the manufacturing of disposable or short lived products was going to be the economic engine that would lift us out of the depression and more. 
This together with the development of vastly more efficient methods of extracting raw materials, transportation systems [including the highway system, trucking, personal cars], the rise of a new generation later called the baby boomers, and the expansion of TV marketing all created a perfect storm. 
And in many ways it worked. No one can doubt that the last 70 or so years have shown tremendous economic prosperity for the US and much of the rest of the world. At least if you measure it a certain way. But if you measure it more carefully its more than clear that the cost of those short term gains are leaving us gasping. I read every day about plastic pollution, about the waste of materials, and about climate change. We are all incredibly aware of our trajectory at this point. 

However, my intent here is not to beat that drum further. My intent is to point out the fact that we can, and are, just as intentionally working our way out of this predicament. While everyday I read about new problems, I also am reading of new solutions. And the thread I see in all of these solutions, whether they are high or low tech, large or low scale, international or local, are people returning to the common sense approaches of finding ways to reuse. Planned obsolescence intentionally dismantled thousands of years of development in about 70 years. Now its our turn to intentionally dismantle that system. Hopefully in much less time. I believe that there are two key things we have to do.  One is to make sure reuse is a part of every solution and discussion. And the second is to work together. 

If you are reading this then you are likely already part of the solution. Awesome. It will take all of us and all of those to come. 
And it will take all of us working together. Non profits, for profits, governments, civic groups. All. So find a partner and join the dance, we have everything to gain. Joe

Decon 19

Please join us in Pittsburgh - early Nov. 2019

If you love our conferences and want to help make this one the best ever please join our BASECAMP Decon 19 team here.

More on final dates soon. 

Welcome our new member "Vonigo"

The BMRA is excited to welcome our newest member to the community, Vonigo.

Vonigo is dedicated to helping mobile service organizations reach their potential in a digital world. Based in Vancouver, Canada, the Vonigo team believes in the power of technology to simplify processes and fulfill missions.

Vonigo looks forward to helping BMRA members maximize their impact through a circular economy and healthier planet. As part of Cascadia, Vonigo is fortunate to be surrounded in nature and wants to play its role in protecting it.

Nonprofits have a special place with Vonigo, including helping nearly 200 Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill Industries locations. Vonigo is proud to support its clients who work hard everyday to serve our communities and make the world a better place.

Vonigo’s business management platform helps streamline the entire donation pick-up and deconstruction processes from start to finish.  The solution covers everything from online booking and scheduling, to work order management, donation receipts, and reporting.

From increasing daily donation pick-up capacity by 25%, to saving $50K in annual vehicle and admin costs, and increasing donations by 300% with online booking, Vonigo helps organizations to operate more efficiently so that they can achieve their goals.


To introduce themselves to the BMRA community, Vonigo is hosting a free webinar for BMRA members on Wednesday, February 13th.  You can save your spot here.

Thanks from the Vonigo Team

Invest in Reuse!

Help Support Our Goals for 2019

  • Rebuild our certification program to allow dozens of cities to engage professionals they can trust.
  • Reframe our curriculum so our member organizations can use it to offer local workforce employment trainings to get more people into deconstruction.
  • Create a continuing Education program to make sure that our members are keeping up to date with the latest research and best practices.
  • Advocate in cities across the country for deconstruction and salvage goals, barrier removal, and funding opportunities.
  • Work with partners to introduce key legislative and ordinance opportunities that will encourage reuse and deconstruction nationally.

"The best investment with the least risk and the greatest dividend is giving."
-John Templeton


 Invest Now 

(because this is not acceptable)


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

UN Report Frames Importance of Reducing Energy Use in Buildings and Construction
Do you want to put your work in building materials reuse in a larger context? Download the 2018 report by the UN Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, titled "Global Status Report: Towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector" Buildings and Construction contribute 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and there is a lot of room to reduce this.

Tech for Affordable Construction
At a small building scale, manufactured homes have been gaining steam over that past several years, but what about larger buildings?  This article looks at examples of factory pre-fabricated apartment units as a way to double the speed and halve the cost of a construction project. What if we could do reassembly with panels from old buildings?

Climate Change Refugees, Sooner than you Think
This Fast Company article by Adele Peters presses the immediacy of the effects of climate change and how it will push or even force people to move. One example is the fire that wiped out Paradise, California, but there are others.  The state of Florida is perhaps most vulnerable in the U.S. to rising sea water levels, and what we do now with respect to greenhouse gas emissions could change how many thousands or millions of people will need to move out of this state in the next century.

Strengthen your Company Culture for Growth
Author Nathan Brainard pitches the importance of company culture in Waste Advantage.  Customers notice a strong company culture, and they become more loyal as they recognize values they support.  Culture must be established and lived out by leaders and managers if it is to be successfully implemented throughout a company.

Waste Management Shifts Toward Sustainable Materials Management
One of the largest companies in the waste and recycling world is making concerted efforts to move toward managing business through a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) framework.  This means paying attention not only to tonnage of materials recycled, but the larger impacts, including carbon emissions impacts.  When we go beyond tons, we can expect that materials reuse will gain stature -- and that's a good thing.

Job Opportunities:

Development Manager - Lifecycle Building Center

The Development Manager is responsible for the strategic management and execution of fundraising activities for LBC. This is a critical and transformative administrative position that will support LBC’s development team in order to significantly scale the organization.

Under the direct supervision of the Executive Director, the Development Manager will plan and implement annual fundraising, corporate fundraising, grant writing, donor stewardship and special events.
More info

Members? got a position you'd like to post? Just email and we'll get you in here. 

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
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