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Greening the Heartland 2010: May 19-21.


May 04, 2010

The 7th annual Greening the Heartland conference will be held in Minneapolis on May 19-21. This years' theme will be "Bridging" since it is now being held by both the USGBC of Minnesota and Minnesota Green Communities. Keynote for the conference will be the executive director and co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair. Other than offering the opportunity to hear esteemed speakers, there will also be a USGBC-Heartland Regional Council meeting, workshops, sessions and tours of notable downtown Minneapolis architecture. Nathan Benjamin will be speaking on the topic of, 'Reclaimed Material Reuse: Bridging the Gap Between Have and Need' as part of the 'Holistic Green Track' sessions offered on Friday, the 21st.

The varying events scheduled at this conference will help to create an experience for attendees that will enrich their knowledge of sustainability, environmental protection, green building, social justice, LEED and Green Communities criteria. Check out more information on this must-attend event here.

Reuse Development: The Missing Phase in the Design and Construction Process- SP'10 Newsletter


April 28, 2010
Deadlines, schedules and routines are constants in the design and construction world. It can be challenging to incorporate new ideas into a process that’s already so demanding. So, how do we keep evolving? By making sure the concepts we embrace are faster, smarter and more cost-effective. When thinking green, the industry demands solutions that are as beneficial for the project as they are for the planet.

Traditionally, material reuse in commercial construction has been subject to mis-perceptions that limited the practice. But as the movement progresses, times change. And as many sustainably-minded professionals have demonstrated over the years, when you perpetuate beneficial adjustments to the system, the system responds.

This same approach is revolutionizing the way people view material reuse. By overcoming and solving reuse material concerns, people are changing these processes—not only for good, but for the greater good.

The old-school design process is familiar: Schematic Design, Design Development and Construction Documents. But is something missing? Bayne Dickinson of Concordia Architects asks, “With no cost to projects, possible savings and LEED points, why wouldn't I run every project through your company? It's a great idea to open all projects up to more reuse opportunities.”

PlanetReuse is on a mission to encourage Reuse Development as a part of the process on every project, regardless of whether LEED certification is planned. Material reuse saves clients money, helps divert materials from landfills and provides great stories of reuse—without complicating the design process.

Reuse Development is a cost-free way to evaluate reclaimed material opportunities. By considering reuse opportunities earlier in the process, the scope of potential materials grows exponentially. And because the efforts happen in parallel with design work, there is no impact to the schedule.

In the new model, the design process becomes: Schematic Design, Reuse Development, Design Development and Construction Documents.

Here’s how it works: send PlanetReuse project drawings as PDFs—the earlier the better—with a project description or material lists if available. PlanetReuse assembles a summary of reclaimed materials for use on your project, including options like structural steel, access flooring, office furniture, carpet tile and many other items. Once identified and reviewed, the company coordinates photos, samples, purchase orders and shipping.

PlanetReuse is working with designers to reframe the typical process to include reuse development. “Sustainable designers want to do the right thing. Architects ask me to send them reminders about our services all the time, since it isn’t part of the traditional process—yet,” said PlanetReuse Principal + Founder Nathan Benjamin. “Material reuse doesn’t have to require additional budget or time, and it’s within the realm of possibility for all projects. We’re here to show people that it’s easy too.”

Continue the Earth Day Commitment with LEED/Living Building Challenge Radius Requirements- SP'10- Newsletter


April 28, 2010
Last week’s Earth Day celebration marked a wonderful upsurge in attention to sustainable activities. Many cities planned week-long activities to increase awareness of recycling and energy efficiency, offering significant opportunities to educate youth and shift mindsets for daily routines.

The official holiday is also a good time to consider your personal and professional goals for aiding the planet throughout the year. The Earth Day mindset can certainly apply to the professional world, specifically in how projects are conceived and constructed. A major way to think sustainably in the building process is to source and specify local and regional materials. This cuts down on the fuel consumption and pollution necessary to truck materials long distances.

The USGBC’s LEED requirements have successfully promoted this practice by establishing criteria that encourages sourcing materials within a 500-mile radius. Cascadia’s Living Building Challenge Project requirements raise the bar by requiring all materials to be sourced from within a more restricted radii based on material weight (250, 500 and maximum of 1,000 miles from origin/source and project site). But even projects that aren’t pursuing certification can benefit from local and regional sourcing.

PlanetReuse works with clients to source materials as close to the project site as possible, both for sustainable and financial reasons. “Not only is it good for the environment, it also cuts down on the transportation costs,” said Tim Bensman, PlanetReuse Operations Manager. “Reduced shipping costs, a smaller carbon footprint and landfill diversion all in one makes sourcing local reclaimed materials an attractive choice.”

The company helped source and coordinate many reclaimed materials for the first two projects slated for Living Building Challenge certification in the Omega Center for Spiritual Living and the Tyson Research Center at Washington University. “Providing regional, reclaimed material options can go a long way in helping design teams hit their goals,” said Nathan Benjamin, PlanetReuse’s Principal + Founder.

Sourcing materials locally reduces your projects carbon footprint, an admirable goal whether or not you plan to pursue certification. Committing to this practice keeps the purpose of Earth Day—to promote a more sustainable world—active year round.

What’s the Difference? Clarifying the Terminology Used for Wood - SP'10 - Newsletter


April 28, 2010
While it’s the most common reclaimed material, the terminology used to define wood for sustainable projects is among the most confusing. While many wood terms have been used interchangeably, the differences can make a significant difference a project’s ability to obtain valuable LEED credits.

To qualify for MR Credit 3 Materials Reuse, your material must have been previously used. Wood from buildings count, of course, but it can also be reclaimed or salvaged from bridges, telephone poles, street pavers, ocean boardwalks or another definable function. Wherever it came from, it must have been used prior to your project’s installation to qualify.

River reclaimed materials—like sinker cypress—may be harvested from sunken trees that are several hundred years old. Though this wood often offers incredible beauty and reduces environmental impact, unfortunately these materials don’t qualify for Materials Reuse credits.

The same goes for urban reclaimed materials, which typically refers to urban growth trees removed for development. While these materials may qualify for the Regional Materials credits, they don’t meet the criteria for Materials Reuse or Certified Wood.

While reclaimed materials can legitimately carry a claim of FSC Recycled or FSC Reclaimed, these materials cannot qualify for the Certified Wood credit 7, since only new, permanently installed wood applies. However, if you empower the use of reclaimed materials on your project, they can actually help with the Certified Wood credit, as reclaimed materials are not counted towards the overall wood cost calculation.

Some also claim that reclaimed materials can count for MR Credit 4 Recycled Content, but today this is not applicable under previous or current GBCI and LEED Standards.

As a rule of thumb, if materials are applied towards the Materials Reuse credit, they cannot qualify for MR credits 1 Building Reuse, 2 Construction Waste Management, 4 Recycled Content, 6 Rapidly Renewable Materials or 7 Certified Wood (anything other than Materials Reuse and Regional Materials). And even when some materials found on an existing site are used on a new project, those materials may not always qualify for the Material Reuse credit depending upon the material, the prior use and the new use.

It seems complicated, and it can be. That’s why PlanetReuse is there, to share their in-depth knowledge and experience with these requirements in order to maximize the credits your project can receive at the lowest possible cost.

Historic Green - SP'10 - Newsletter


April 28, 2010
PlanetReuse feels so strongly about the meaningful work Historic Green is doing that our founder made the trip to New Orleans for the organization’s most recent volunteer event. Historic Green is a volunteer-led collaboration that works tirelessly to revitalize New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. From the tragedy of Katrina, the organizers of Historic Green saw an opportunity to rebuild in a way that respects New Orleans’ rich traditions while introducing significant sustainable initiatives.

The goal of Historic Green is to transform New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross as the nation's first zero carbon community. It meets this objective through a true grassroots structure, in which volunteers from across the country join together each spring to tackle neighborhood-based projects. Historic Green’s most recent project, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association and Center for Sustainable Economic Development headquarters, aims for LEED Platinum certification. These efforts improve livability while increasing public awareness about green design and heritage conservation.

Many of Historic Green’s volunteers are industry professionals, like-minded individuals who share ideas and forge connections that resonate far beyond a single project.   

Historic Green calls what they are doing “sustainable preservation.” We call it inspiration. To donate to or volunteer for the cause, visit

Design Currency: Icograda Design Week in Vancouver, April 26-30.


April 27, 2010

This week, Icograda (International Council of Graphic Design Associations) pairs up with the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) in Vancouver to host the 2010 Design Currency Design Week. This will be the perfect chance for architects and designers to hear international experts speak in presentations, conversations and workshops with topics ranging from "Defining the Value of Design," to "Design and Indigenous Culture." Keynotes and some of the exceptional speakers include the Canadian Green Building Council founder Peter Busby, Innovation & Design editor of Businessweek Helen Walters, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity Cameron Sinclair, Philips Design Global Senior Creative Director of lighting Oscar Pena, and typographic illustrator (of Saks Fifth Avenue, Wallpaper* magazine, WIRED, and The NY Times, to name a few) Marian Bantjes.

The events will also be held in the award-winning Vancouver Convention Centre that can be found downtown right on the waterfront. The center is home to a habitat for marine-life built directly into the foundation and a six-acre 'living roof' which also catches rainwater to irrigate it's indigenous plants. For their green initiatives, the convention center has been awarded the "GO GREEN" certificate and the West building has received LEED® Platinum certification while the East building is pursuing LEED®-EB certification. All-in-all, the Design Currency: Icograda Design Week promises to be a great convention held at an ideal location. Check out the complete list of activities here if you are interested in attending this Pacific Northwest week of design events!

USGBC Chicago Chapter Event: "Salvaged Material in the Sustainable Design Process"


April 02, 2010

Just in time for Earth Day, the Chicago USGBC Chapter will be holding the event titled, "Salvaged Material in the Sustainable Design Process" on April 20th. The event promises a tour of the ReBuilding Exchange accompanied by a discussion in which members of the selected panel will explain more thoroughly how reused materials are incorporated in projects. Participants should hope to gain a better understanding of the impact of new vs. reused material specification, how LEED plays a role in Material Reuse projects, when salvaged materials become an option in the design & construction processes, and insight from past challenges and opportunities reuse has afforded the panelists.

If you are an architect, contractor, residential builder or designer, specifier, or student of any of the previous fields, pre-register online to attend. Jason LaFleur of Eco Achievers who will be moderating the session and panel members will include William Emmick of Studio Gang Architects, Meghann Maves of OWP/P - Cannon Design, and Nathan Benjamin of PlanetReuse. If you're around Chicago, attend this event to help kick-off a great Earth Day 2010!

April 22nd-23rd: Midwest Urban Deconstruction Forum.


March 09, 2010

As the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, keep this outstanding event in mind when mapping out your plans. On April 22nd and 23rd, the Midwest Urban Deconstruction Forum will be held at the Chicago headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and hosted by USEPA Region 5 Land and Chemicals Division, Region 5 Brownfields Program, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, and Office of Brownfields & Land Revitalization.

"The Midwest Urban Deconstruction Forum will provide an excellent opportunity to establish a regional dialogue among local-level decision makers and look at new initiatives and challenges related to:

· evaluating successful strategies to incorporate deconstruction into communities’ efforts to manage abandoned buildings,
· evaluating economic viability of deconstruction on municipal projects,
· encouraging deconstruction, reuse, and recycling in the community, and
· creating local jobs through deconstruction."

If you have some experience with deconstruction, this event would be extremely valuable to consider attending. There are only fifty spots available to encourage an educated discussion and information-sharing event for individuals and communities that already have some experience in deconstruction. If you would like to attend, April 1st is the deadline for registration.

If you are in the Chicago area already and are looking for a more introductory level event, perhaps look into attending the 3rd annual 'Green Your Footprint' held at the Flair Tower which is the newest LEED certified residential building in Chicago.

As it gets closer to Earth Day 2010, check back here for information on more exceptional events taking place around the nation and globe!

Support New Orleans Historic Green!


March 02, 2010

From March 9th through the 19th, New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross hopes to restore, create, preserve, sustain, and green their neighborhood by rebuilding as the nation's first zero carbon community! Historic Green is a non-profit formed in part by USGBC Central Plains EGB Leaders whose project may be the first project in the nation "designed to integrate sustainable restoration practices with preservation of an entire historic community."

HG is in it's third year as a ten-day volunteer project led by a network of hundreds of young professional and student volunteers in the green building industry. Among those making the journey for this volunteer opportunity will be Nathan Benjamin, Founder+Principal of PlanetReuse. In the past two years, homes have been weatherized, rain gardens built, damaged homes deconstructed, playgrounds restored, and educational programs have been put into place. While these projects continue, the newest HG volunteer project, aimed at LEED Platinum certification, will be the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association and Center for Sustainable Economic Development’s headquarters.

If you would like to donate you time, materials, or financial assistance to Historic Green and their outstanding cause, please check out the HG website!

KU Studio 804 featured in Metropolis Magazine.


February 21, 2010

The design-build program at University of Kansas, Studio 804, gets a little media love in the February edition of Metropolis Magazine. Studio 804 allows architecture students to see more than just the design and build of a structure, but to also understand everything else they will encounter along the way. KU professor Dan Rockhill presents the 22 students with the opportunity to create more than just a cool house. Each project serves as, "a shining example of state-of-the-art sustainable design-and an illustration of the aesthetic and financial challenges sustainable design presents." As most projects for Studio 804 are of Midwest origin, it is only natural for weather and climate issues to come into play. The devastating tornado that struck Greensburg motivated its' townspeople to rebuild as a Green community which offered the perfect opportunity for a Green design-build project. The strict LEED Platinum standards that the city council mandated for any municipally owned building over 4,000 square feet presented a challenge but nothing that Rockhill's studio couldn't handle. In one years' time Kansas had it's first LEED Platinum building in the form of a, "sleek modular arts center," that Governor Kathleen Sebelius praised and Studio 804 could proudly call their own. Read the article in it's entirety here and check out more work from Studio 804!

Rock chalk!

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