Aligning All Efforts Toward a Single, Simple, Understandable Goal

All arrows aligned toward a single target graphic

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made an historic speech in which he stated:

"…I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

Massive goal. Simply stated.

What happens when efforts are hidden, independent, unaware of one another, not collaborating toward a simple and understandable goal?

Stasis. Lack of progress. Small increments of scattered success and limited growth.

What happens when all efforts align toward a common goal?

Efficiencies, momentum, collaboration, progress, and success!

Arrows Scattered to Focused GRAPHIC

I have often quoted the Architect and inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller, who said, “You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” At a recent conference keynote, I heard Eden Brukman, Chief Sustainability Officer for the County of San Diego, California, state that same quotation.

Ms. Brukman and I work in the world of sustainability. More specifically, she was speaking to the highly receptive audience at that conference about the ecosystem of circularity and reuse of buildings and building materials, advancing deconstruction and reuse over the current ways of demolition and disposal of buildings and building materials.

There is a model of distribution of used building materials in place. It consists of thousands of businesses and organizations and dedicated, passionate people working to stem the flow of demolished buildings into landfills. Despite its valiant efforts and continued enthusiasm, it is not keeping up with the behemoth industry creating all that waste from still usable materials, Construction & Demolition Waste (CDW).

Waste is not waste until it is wasted.

A brand new 2 x 4 thrown into a dumpster is not waste until it is wasted… it is wasted by decision and complacence and actions that become habits and engrained practices. We even call it waste before it actually is waste.

The same goes for whole buildings. CDW is the largest source of waste in America. It is twice as much as Municipal Waste, which is everything you and I and 330,000,000 Americans throw away as trash and garbage all year long, at home and at work. Twice as much as that.

Let that sink in.


The current model of distribution of reclaimed building materials is typically sold through a retail salvage store model, a small-to-large warehouse frequently situated within metropolitan areas to take advantage of the necessary walk-in retail shopping model.

A percentage of these salvage stores (think ReStore by Habitat for Humanity and similar) do advertise online and some do put items for sale on online marketplaces, like Ebay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, and of course, ReCapturit. Some of these platforms do provide for the transaction to take place online, but most of these sellers opt to simply display their products online and entice shoppers to come to their locations for completion of the transaction. They do not want to do what is necessary to ship these products.

Sadly, this model of distribution has not kept up with the growth of Construction. Not kept up. That means that the volumes of materials destined for the dumps of America are growing faster than the combined efforts to stop that. It’s like a fire that burns uncontrolled, despite the firefighters’ efforts.

There will come a time when this cannot continue. It can be argued that time is now.

I believe that proactive efforts are better than forced compliance.

“Build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”

What would that new model look like?

Well, there is roughly a multiple of five to six times the salvageable materials still flowing to landfills than the current model processes. That is not 5%. It is 500-600% more materials that can be salvaged, processed, and put into new uses.

Who would use these materials at such volume? How would that happen?

“Build a new model…”

The current audience of buyers of used building materials is for residential and small-scale commercial projects, with some being “upcycled” into products like lumber into flooring and furniture.

This is good. It is nowhere near sufficient.

We need to address the relationship that no one has so far established: engaging with the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction community (AEC) – on their terms, in their channels, within their systems. They are not going to adapt to the current model, or they would have done so already.

This is not as complicated nor difficult as it may seem. Albert Einstein said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

We are developing a simple and holistic approach to the entire ecosystem of building materials reuse that can offer a unifying objective to the industry.

  • It connects and coordinates many independent efforts around the nation.
  • It includes technology, Architecture, Engineering, and Construction, policy, planning, warehousing, job creation, deconstruction, urban mining, supply chain, plus real estate, building owners, and more.
  • It combines all the usable would-be-waste materials for processing and warehousing from the five main channels:
    • Demolition
    • Deconstruction
    • Construction jobsites
    • Urban mining
    • And the oft-forgotten warehoused leftovers of discontinued items, seconds, returns, overages, and such that never made it into first use and now sit dormant and forgotten.
  • It provides ample selection and quantities of materials, in formats that Architects can use to model and specify, builders can purchase confidently in their usual channels, and owners can enjoy the benefits of genuine sustainability with retained or enhanced profitability.
  • All this happens at a greater scale, with higher capacities, efficiencies, and production capabilities, at lower costs, to provide consistency of supply for the currently dormant demand.
  • All the pieces are (almost) in place!

So, let’s borrow JFK’s words and transform them into today’s needs and say…

I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of stopping the wasting of buildings and building materials and returning them safely to reuse.

Is that really so difficult? Let’s get going!



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